Comparing the landscape level perceptual abilities of forest sciurids in fragmented agricultural landscapes*
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Perceptual range is the maximum distance from which an animal can perceive the presence of remote landscape elements such as patches of habitat. Such perceptual abilities are of interest because they influence the probability that an animal will successfully disperse to a new patch in a landscape. Furthermore, understanding how perceptual range differs between species may help to explain differential species sensitivity to patch isolation. The objective of this research was to assess the perceptual range of eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus), gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), and fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) in fragmented agricultural landscapes. Animals were captured in remote woodlots and translocated to unfamiliar agricultural fields. There they were released at different distances from a woodlot and their movements towards or away from the woodlot were used to assess their ability to perceive forested habitat. Observed perceptual ranges of approximately 120 m for chipmunks, 300 m for gray squirrels, and 400 m for fox squirrels, suggest that differences in landscape-level perceptual abilities may influence the occurrence of these species in isolated habitat patches.
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