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American Midland Naturalist

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We examined the abundance and placement of leaf nests by fox squirrels in six urban woodlots in central Indiana ranging in size from 1.06 to 8.28 ha. Four of the woodlots were disturbed, or subject to extensive human impact, whereas the remaining two were nature preserves. We counted all leaf nests present in each woodlot and recorded nest tree characteristics. We then conducted a quantitative vegetation analysis of trees present and estimated percentages of herbaceous and shrub cover along a minimum of two 100 m transects at each site. Fox squirrels showed a preference to build nests in certain species of trees. However, preference for nest tree species was not consistent across sites. Fox squirrels preferred to build nests in large trees with vines in the canopy at all sites. Characteristics of nests and nest trees did not differ among sites, but nest density was greater in the disturbed sites compared to the nature preserve sites. The nature preserve sites differed from the disturbed sites only with regard to the amount of shrub and herbaceous cover; shrub cover was greater and herbaceous cover was less at the disturbed sites. Results of this study suggest that fox squirrels are flexible with regard to nest tree species used and that the choice of a nest tree is dependent, in part, on tree size and the presence of vines. Further, a higher density of leaf nests in disturbed woodlots suggests that habitat disturbance and fragmentation due to urbanization may not have detrimental effects on the abundance and persistence of fox squirrels.


This article was archived with permission from the University of Notre Dame. Document also available from American Midland Naturalist.