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Monday, February 6 • 2:00pm - 2:20pm
Technical Session. Evaluating Nest Site Selection of Southern Flying Squirrels in West-Central Illinois

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AUTHORS: Christopher N. Jacques, James S. Zweep, Sean E. Jenkins - Western Illinois University.

ABSTRACT: Southern flying squirrels (SFS; Glaucomys volans) nest in naturally–formed cavities in snags and hardwoods trees in mature, undisturbed forests. Intensive forest fragmentation across Midwestern landscapes may limit the availability of nesting trees relative to other regions characterized by contiguous forested habitat, though has not been extensively studied. Thus, our study objective was to evaluate nest tree use of SFS in west–central Illinois. From October 2014 to April 2016, we used radio telemetry to track flying squirrels to 109 nest tree sites (83 live trees, 26 snags). Our results indicated that diurnal nest trees were characterized by significantly more (21 = 4.41, P ≤ 0.02) live, larger diameter oak trees than random locations. We documented greater (21 ≥ 3.97, P ≤ 0.04) use of live, intact canopy trees by female squirrels whereas nest tree use by male squirrels was characterized by fewer numbers of tree species and greater use of snags in more advanced stages of decay. Selection for live trees (and thus closer proximity to hard mast) by female SFS may be attributed to increased energetic demands while rearing young. Further, SFS used a variety of forest types for nesting, including riparian and floodplain forests; use of early-successional, riparian, and floodplain forests had not been documented prior to this study. Flexibility in nest site selection by SFS may be related to variation in forest patch sizes that characterize fragmented Midwestern landscapes. Thus, future research quantifying potential effects of habitat fragmentation on SFS nesting ecology is warranted.

Monday February 6, 2017 2:00pm - 2:20pm CST