Term of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Michelle Cawthorn

Committee Member 1

Stephen P. Vives

Committee Member 2

Lissa Leege

Abstract

Eastern gray squirrels inhabit a large range of heterogeneous habitats and climates, and live with various levels of anthropogenic disturbance. Previous studies have examined this species in unmodified and modified surroundings; however, a comparison of populations between these habitats has yet to be published. Their widespread occurrence coupled with their success in urban areas and the invasive nature of introduced populations, suggests this species is behaviorally flexible. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of anthropogenic disturbance and development on gray squirrel nesting behavior by comparing variables related to nesting habitat preference among habitats of differing levels of anthropogenic disturbance. Among the habitats, food trees were preferred over non-food trees. Nests were built at a height of approximately 12 m. Tree size preferences tended toward those at least 10 cm in diameter. Trees used in developed areas were larger than trees in natural areas, due to availability; but a trend toward larger trees was observed in undeveloped areas as well. Based on nesting behavior, eastern gray squirrel populations do not appear to be adversely affected by anthropogenic modification.

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