Influence of Forest Management and Microhabitat Conditions on Abundance of Southern Fox and Gray Squirrels

Squirrels (Sciuris spp.) are important game species; however, it is believed that southern fox squirrel (S. niger) populations in many regions are declining. Changes in forest management practices may have reduced habitat availability and diversity, thereby contributing to declining population trends. However, relationships among forest management practices, active management of wildlife habitats, and wildlife populations requires an understanding of relationships among forest communities and wildlife populations. We used linear regression to build predictive models of gray squirrel (S. carolinensis) and fox squirrel relative abundance based on winter and summer habitat conditions. Relative abundance of gray squirrels was greatest in older hardwood stands containing high basal areas, regardless of season. Southern fox squirrel abundance also was correlated with percentage hardwood, indicating the importance of the hardwood component to southern fox squirrels. Our data suggest that the hardwood component within mixed and pine-dominated stands is an important cue for habitat selection by southern fox squirrels and should be monitored when managing for sustainable populations of southern fox and gray squirrels.

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