Eastern Gray Squirrel Survival in a Seasonally-Flooded Hunted Bottomland Forest Ecosystem

Though the eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is an important game species throughout its range in North America, little is known about environmental factors that may affect survival. We investigated survival and predation of a hunted population of eastern gray squirrels on Lown- des Wildlife Management Area in central Alabama from July 2015–April 2017. This area experiences annual flooding conditions from November through the following September. Our Kaplan-Meier survival estimate at 365 days for all squirrels was 0.25 (0.14–0.44, 95% CL) which is within the range for previously studied eastern gray squirrel populations (0.20–0.58). There was no difference between male (0.13; 0.05–0.36, 95% CL) and female survival (0.37; 0.18–0.75, 95% CL, P=0.16). Survival was greatest in summer (1.00) and fall (0.65; 0.29–1.0, 95% CL) and lowest during winter (0.23; 0.11–0.50, 95% CL). We found squirrels were more likely to die during the flooded winter season and mortality risk increased as flood extent through- out the study area increased. Over 60% of mortalities were due to predation, which is comparable to other Sciurus species. When managing populations of eastern gray squirrels, it is important to consider the effect of environmental factors, such as flooding, on survival.

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