Western Gray Squirrel Habitat and Fuel Management in the North Cascades

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The state-threatened western gray squirrel occurs in the northern Cascade Range, Washington, where long-term fire suppression has increased risk of catastrophic wildfire.

Fire fuel reduction programs could alter squirrel habitat and may affect their populations. From April 2008 to September 2011, researchers investigated resource selection of 38 radio-collared western gray squirrels at study sites in the North Cascades following mechanical thinning and prescribed burning. Using a model to examine resource selection, researchers found that most variables positively related to habitat selection, such as canopy cover, canopy connectivity, and mistletoe presence, are specifically targeted for reduction in fire fuel management plans. Key considerations in designing fuel reduction programs that benefit both squirrel habitat conservation and fire fuel management include: maintaining forest patches with suitable canopy cover and connectivity, retaining large trees of a mix of species, and keeping some mistletoe for squirrel nesting.  

Stuart, K.D., Vander Haegen, M., Jenkins, K.J., Keren, I., West, S.D., 2018, Western gray squirrel resource selection related to fire fuel management: Journal of Wildlife Management, https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.21499.