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11 January 2016 Resource selection by southeastern fox squirrels in a fire-maintained forest system
Annemarie Prince, M. Colter Chitwood, Marcus A. Lashley, Christopher S. DePerno, Christopher E. Moorman
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Fire is essential to maintain the open forest structure required by the southeastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger niger). In recent decades, managers of the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem have transitioned from dormant-season to growing-season burns, which more effectively limit midstory hardwood encroachment. Similarly, aggressive hardwood removal programs have been employed to further reduce hardwood midstory. However, fox squirrels are dependent on oaks (Quercus spp.) for food and cover; thus, it is unclear how growingseason burns and hardwood removal may affect habitat quality for fox squirrels. We used compositional analysis to investigate selection of home ranges within the study area by 48 radiocollared fox squirrels on the Fort Bragg Military Installation, North Carolina. We used resource utilization functions with growing-season fire history and other habitat covariates as explanatory variables to test whether growing-season fires influenced the selection of habitat components within home ranges. Lastly, using a sample of fox squirrel relocations and paired random points, we performed binomial logistic regression to test whether habitat selection by fox squirrels was influenced by the availability of oaks and longleaf pines and select forest stand structural characteristics. When establishing home ranges, fox squirrels selected southern yellow pine over other cover types. Within home ranges, fox squirrel use increased with decreasing distance to a riparian area but was not affected by the application of growing-season fires. At the population level, fox squirrels selected for greater densities of reproductively mature oak stems. Fox squirrels likely benefit from growing-season fires that maintain expansive upland pine stands but are negatively affected by homogeneous fire application and mechanical hardwood removal that reduce the occurrence of reproductively mature oaks across the landscape. Managers should strive to maintain oaks in riparian areas, fire shadows, and naturally occurring patches within pine stands when managing for fox squirrels.

© 2016 American Society of Mammalogists,
Annemarie Prince, M. Colter Chitwood, Marcus A. Lashley, Christopher S. DePerno, and Christopher E. Moorman "Resource selection by southeastern fox squirrels in a fire-maintained forest system," Journal of Mammalogy 97(2), 631-638, (11 January 2016).
Received: 14 March 2015; Accepted: 15 December 2015; Published: 11 January 2016

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