Term of Award

Spring 1998

Degree Name

Master of Science

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

C. Ray Chandler

Committee Member 1

Daniel Gleason

Committee Member 2

Stephen P. Vives

Abstract

Southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) are potential nest predators of cavity nesting birds. Because of this, flying squirrels may negatively affect Redcockaded Woodpecker (RCW, Picoides borealis) reproductive success. A controlled experiment was conducted in 1996 and 1997 to determine if flying squirrel management (through exclusion and removal) had any effects on RCW reproductive success, and if any commonly measured habitat variables could be correlated to the number of flying squirrels on Fort Stewart, Georgia. Squirrel excluder devices (SQEDs) were placed on all active cavity trees in 30 RCW clusters. Flying squirrels were also removed from 30 clusters by placing Sherman live traps around the probable nest tree and removing flying squirrels from cavities by hand. These two treatments were compared to 30 control clusters that received no flying squirrel management.

Flying squirrels were the most frequently encountered vertebrate in both years, occupying 8-11% of RCW cavities. There was no evidence that flying squirrels had any effects on the likelihood of nest initiation among groups or on date of nest initiation in either year. Trap groups produced significantly more successful nests (> one fledgling) for first nesting attempts in 1996 than control or SQED groups. However, in 1997, there was no difference among treatments in the number of successful nests. Trap groups experienced greater partial nest loss (loss of eggs or nestlings) than control or SQED groups in 1996 and 1997. However, there were no significant differences in the number of eggs, nestlings, or fledglings produced by first nest attempts in either year. Treatment did not affect the propensity of unsuccessful pairs to initiate a second nest in 1996 or 1997. However, in 1996, trap groups had significantly fewer nesting attempts than control or SQED groups. This was not the case in 1997. Ultimately, after accounting for all nesting attempts, treatment did not significantly affect the percentage of clusters producing fledglings or the mean number of fledglings per cluster in either year.

Abundance of flying squirrels was not significantly correlated with any of the habitat variables measured. There was also no significant association between squirrels and overall habitat characteristics as described by Principal Components Analysis.

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