Distribution and foraging behavior of ground and tree squirrels in an urban environment

Animals are constrained by the urban landscape as human population density and building density impinge on the distribution and abundance of various species. This study used transects and citizen science observations to determine the distribution patterns of the local squirrel species Sciurus niger and Otospermophilus beecheyi. Sciurus niger were primarily distributed in the central, western, and northern regions of the Fresno Clovis Metropolitan Area. Otospermophilus beecheyi were primarily distributed along the northern, southern, and western edges of the study area. This study examined the habitat use of S. niger by identifying all trees and shrubs, and estimating cover class and utility cable density. This study also aerially digitized cover categories and included housing data from Zillow as well as socioeconomic data. Two socioeconomic variables were significantly positively correlated with squirrel presence; the average household size and the average family household size (Logistic fit: R2 = 0.054, P < 0.0225; and R2 = 0.057, P < 0.0184; respectively). This study examined the foraging behavior of S. niger using Giving-Up Density experiments (F (habitat)1, 163 = 19.86, P = 0.0001). As metropolitan areas grow, the sustainability of the urban landscape of local flora and fauna becomes an increasing concern. Even though squirrels are considered pest species, increased understanding of their ecology should govern appropriate management decisions.