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8 December 2016 Reevaluating fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) population declines in the southeastern United States
Daniel U. Greene, Robert A. McCleery
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Abstract

We used southeastern fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) in the southeastern United States as an example of how modern approaches to estimate density coupled with a reevaluation of previous estimates can provide important new insights into the management and conservation of mammals. There are few rigorous density estimates of southeastern fox squirrels, which hinders our ability to manage and conserve their populations. Based on an initial estimate from 1957 of 38 squirrels/km2 and subsequent decreases in estimates of population densities, noted decreases in hunter harvest reports, and anecdotal observations, southeastern fox squirrels are believed to be declining. To assess the extent of this decline, we first estimated the density of a subspecies of southeastern fox squirrel, Sherman's fox squirrel (S. n. shermani), using live trapping and camera trapping and modern analytical approaches for mark–recapture analysis. Then, to compare our densities to previous work, we calculated a standardized effective survey area correction factor for past studies and recalculated their population densities. Once standardized, we found little temporal or geographic variation in densities of southeastern fox squirrels (2.4–8.5 squirrels/km2) spanning nearly 70 years of research. Past densities were substantially lower than initially reported with corrected survey areas, suggesting that densities may have always been naturally low but were incorrectly inflated due to study designs and statistical approaches. Moreover, corrected densities from all studies were correlated with the bounded survey area, suggesting that researches aiming to estimate population densities of southeastern fox squirrels were frequently conducted at scales too small relative to the size of their home ranges. The use of methodological and analytical approaches such as those used in this study may help to avoid misdirected conservation designations or management actions and misuse of conservation funding.

© 2016 American Society of Mammalogists, www.mammalogy.org
Daniel U. Greene and Robert A. McCleery "Reevaluating fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) population declines in the southeastern United States," Journal of Mammalogy 98(2), 502-512, (8 December 2016). https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyw186
Received: 27 March 2016; Accepted: 8 November 2016; Published: 8 December 2016
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