Portland State University. Environmental Sciences and Resources Ph. D. Program
Richard B. Forbes
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Sciences and Resources: Biology
Environmental Sciences and Resources
1 online resource (166 p.)
Squirrels -- Habitat -- Oregon, Squirrels -- Ecology -- Oregon
The western gray squirrel (Sciurus griseus griseus Ord) occur only in the Pacific states and in a small corner of extreme western Nevada. Field studies of aspects of the ecology of the most widely distributed subspecies of western gray squirrel (S. griseus) were conducted at three sites in the ponderosa pine-Oregon white oak zone on the eastern slopes of Mt. Hood, Wasco County, Oregon, between 1981 and 1989. From 1981 through 1987, a Hunter Cooperation Program provided remains of squirrels shot during the annual late summer-early autumn hunting season. Other data were gathered through capture and release studies, radiotelemetry, and habitat analysis.
The age structure of these populations, as revealed by examination of squirrels killed by hunters, is predominantly mature animals. Also, the population as estimated by hunter success during the Hunter Cooperation Program and by field observations appears to be declining.
In the sites studied, western gray squirrels have two seasons of reproductive activity annually. Some individuals mate from January through March; their young emerge from the nest in May and June. Other individuals mate during May and June; their young emerge in August and September. The latter matings are usually the most productive.
Analysis of nest trees and their surroundings revealed that nests are most likely to be located in mature trees that have well-developed crowns and occur in stands with a high degree of canopy closure. Nest trees were usually located within approximately 180 meters of permanent water and on sites with a south-southeasterly exposure.
Home ranges of squirrels examined in this study were usually large compared to home ranges reported for this species elsewhere in its range. Given the cost of having large home ranges, it seems possible that the squirrels at these study sites exist in less than optimal ecological circumstances.
Human factors that may have contributed to the decline of the populations in this study may include the nature of logging activities and the timing of the annual hunting season. Limiting factors other than human activities may include competition with other mast-consuming animals (mule deer, elk, wild turkeys, and three other species of squirrels) for limited and variable mast crops.
Foster, Susan Ann, "Studies of ecological factors that affect the population and distribution of the western gray squirrel in northcentral Oregon" (1992). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2383.