Habitat analysis of a disjunct population of the Carolina northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus)

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Nicole DeAnne Allman Parrish (Creator)
Institution
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://www.wcu.edu/404.asp
Advisor
Beverly Collins

Abstract: The northern flying squirrel Glaucomys sabrinus occurs in a variety of forest types over most of North America, with disjunct populations in the southern Appalachians, Black Hills, southern Rocky Mountains, and Sierra Nevada (Wells- Gosling and Heaney, 1984). A subspecies of sabrinus, the Carolina northern flying squirrel, sabrinus coloratus, is a small nocturnal flying squirrel found in the southern Appalachians. One population of Carolina northern flying squirrel occurs within hemlock-northern hardwood forests along the Cherohala Skyway in western North Carolina. This subspecies was listed as federally endangered on July 1, 1985 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1990) largely due to declining populations from habitat loss (Loeb et al., 2000). I sought to determine if the larger habitat surrounding the areas of documented squirrel activity is suitable for squirrel persistence, how habitat size and quality compares between sites with squirrel activity and other sites, and what types of foods the squirrels were consuming. Vegetation surveys of sites with documented G. s. coloratus activity, either den sites or capture sites, and paired random sites approximately 70 meters away were conducted. In addition to general habitat knowledge, these surveys provided information for GIS analysis of the larger habitat around the three focal areas. Using ArcGIS v. 9.3.1 (ESRI, Redlands, CA, USA), a model delineating potential Carolina northern flying squirrel habitat based on six parameters: slope, elevation, aspect, spectral signature of den sites, soil types, and tree height data was created. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and sequencing was performed on G. s. coloratus scat samples to determine fungal or bacterial diet composition. Vegetation surveys revealed G. s. coloratus were utilizing habitat from hemlock to northern hardwood forest and habitat patches that were similar to nearby areas along the Cherohala Skyway. The GIS model revealed an area of potential G. s. coloratus habitat to the north (Stratton Bald). Though the distance from Stratton Bald to my three study sites exceeds G. s. coloratus travel distance, the model also revealed an area much closer than Stratton Bald of smaller suitable patches grouped relatively close together. BLAST results of sequenced DGGE bands of squirrel scat revealed similarity to common fungi, including both ascomycetes and basidiomycetes.

Additional Information

Publication
Thesis
Language: English
Date: 2012
Keywords
Carolina, Cherohala Skyway, coloratus, Glaucomys sabrinus, habitat, northern flying squirrel
Subjects
Northern flying squirrel -- Ecology -- North Carolina, Western
Northern flying squirrel -- Habitat -- North Carolina, Western