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Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) released in conifer woodland: the effects of source habitat, predation and interactions with grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)

  • R.E. Kenward (a1) and K.H. Hodder (a1)

Abstract

Fourteen radio-tagged red squirrels were released in pine woodland containing grey squirrels. Movements of the squirrels were related to the tree species of the donor site. Survival after release was lower than for the grey squirrels: of 11 red squirrels that survived at least a week, only three survived more than three months and none for four months. More than half were eaten or cached by predators, mainly foxes; an experiment with grey squirrel carcasses indicated that they had been killed, not scavenged after death. Hypertrophied adrenals, disease and loss of weight indicated stress as another factor in the deaths. Data on overlap of core ranges, and reluctance of red squirrels to enter traps used by grey squirrels in the mixed population, indicated interference competition between the two species, with grey squirrels possibly dominant. We recommend: (i) that care should be taken to release translocated animals in similar habitat to their origin; (ii) that grey squirrels should be excluded from future release areas until red squirrels have settled and, before biodiversity is reduced by landscape management for red squirrels; (iii) more research to determine whether interactions with grey squirrels or differential predation will ultimately displace red squirrels in conifers.

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Corresponding author

All correspondence to: R. E. Kenward, Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Furzebrook Research Station, Furzebrook Road, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5AS

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Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) released in conifer woodland: the effects of source habitat, predation and interactions with grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)

  • R.E. Kenward (a1) and K.H. Hodder (a1)

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