, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 243-255

Gray squirrel density, habitat suitability, and behavior in urban parks

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Abstract

Increased density, increased intraspecific aggression, and a reduced fear of humans have been suggested as the more observable and frequently described characteristics of wildlife species undergoing synurbization, the process of becoming urbanized. The relationship among these variables and how they may be related to environmental variables that change with urbanization is poorly understood. In this paper we explore the relationship between density, intraspecific aggression, and reduced fear of humans in urban populations of gray squirrel. In the summer and fall of 2003 and 2004, we studied a park with a documented high density of gray squirrels, Lafayette Park, Washington, DC, and six urban parks in Baltimore, MD with unknown squirrel densities. We used linear regression (SAS Institute, SAS/STAT user’s guide. SAS Institute, Cary, NC, 2005) to determine if there was a relationship (P < 0.05) between squirrel density and intraspecific aggression, squirrel density and reduced fear of humans (wariness), and squirrel density and habitat suitability. We found a positive association between density and intraspecific aggression (R 2 = 0.81, P < 0.00). A negative relationship between density and wariness ( $R_{{\text{adj}}}^2 = 0.71$ , P < 0.00). However, no relationship was evident between habitat suitability and squirrel density ( $R_{{\text{adj}}}^2 = - 0.50$ , P = 0.437).