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Body weights in grey and red squirrels: do seasonal weight increases occur in conifer woodland?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 November 2000

P. W. W. Lurz
Affiliation:
Centre for Land Use and Water Resources Research (CLUWRR), University of Newcastle, Porter Building, St Thomas Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, U.K.
A. J. Lloyd
Affiliation:
Centre for Land Use and Water Resources Research (CLUWRR), University of Newcastle, Porter Building, St Thomas Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, U.K.
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Abstract

Seasonal body weight changes were investigated in red and grey squirrels in spruce-dominated conifer plantations in the north of England. Annual seed food availability, particularly in the spruce plantations, varies markedly and is characterized by years with large cone crops (‘mast crops’) followed by several years of intermediate or low crops. The last mast crop in Kielder Forest District occurred in 1991 and we studied the two squirrel species when food availability was intermediate and low between 1992 and 1999. Neither red nor grey squirrels in the conifer plantations significantly increased their body weight for the autumn or winter. The responses of red and grey squirrels to the different foraging conditions in deciduous and conifer woodlands and the accumulation of seasonal fat stores may have to be seen in the context of habitat type and the pattern and predictability of seed availability. Our findings suggest that fat accumulation is likely to be less pronounced in conifer habitats where autumn and winter food supplies are more predictable, and manoeuvrability to feed on cones in the canopy is important.

Type
Short Communication
Copyright
© 2000 The Zoological Society of London

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