Little is known about the behavior of mammals moving on unfamiliar ground, yet this information could be critical to assessing and enhancing landscape connectivity. I investigated the movements of adult red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) on unfamiliar ground to determine if squirrels selected specific microhabitat features and if manipulations of preferred features influenced movement choices. Rather than selecting for cover from predators or territorial conspecifics, 25 squirrels released outside their home ranges used microhabitat features that appeared to allow rapid, efficient, and inconspicuous travel (logs, open vegetation, low slopes, and high shrub cover per stem) while maintaining proximity to arboreal escape routes. Similarly, in 73 trials with 55 individuals, squirrels released in experimental plots moved preferentially through areas of greater log cover and cover per stem. Manipulating microhabitat features in plots within forested habitat enhanced red squirrel movements, underscoring the possibility of altering microhabitats in 2nd-growth forests or corridors to increase landscape connectivity for forest-associated mammals.
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