Habitat use, feeding and activity patterns of Big Cypress fox squirrels (Sciurus niger avicennia) were studied in southwest Florida to identify golf course features favorable to fox squirrels. The location, behavior and foods of 30 radio-located squirrels were recorded twice weekly from Dec. 1995 to Jul. 1997. Diet was >85% food from native conifers for 6 mo (Aug.–Jan.), >75% flowers and fruits of planted exotics for 3 mo (Feb.–Apr.) and a variety of foods supplemented by mushrooms and webworm larvae for 3 mo (May–Jul.). Ground feeding accounted for 69.6% of observations. Use of foods from exotic species was associated with greatest reproduction in the summer. Five categories of behavior in adults (feeding, travel, resting, nesting, social interactions) showed significant interaction between sex and time-of-day and season and time-of-day in a log-linear model. Squirrels were least active during the hottest part of the year. Squirrels concentrated their activity in tree stands of the course's roughs. Squirrels were more likely to use open areas to travel between tree stands than for other activities. Among patches of trees, stands dominated by Pinus elliottii and Taxodium sp. and by P. elliottii and Sabal palmetto were used the most. Squirrels used pure stands of S. palmetto and stands of mixed natives less than expected based on availability. Dense understory reduced overall stand use and ground foraging. Golf course design and management directly affect features favorable to Big Cypress fox squirrels and may determine the value of golf courses in conservation.
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Vol. 158 • No. 2