Casandra Brocksmith and Lauren Gray
Ecology class, BIO 342, Biology Department, DePauw University
Fall semester 2014
We looked at nest site preferences of squirrels in the DePauw Nature Park. Squirrels typically live in forests and prefer to nest in hardwood nut-producing trees. A squirrel's home range is one to eight acres and overlaps with other squirrels. Both male and female squirrels construct the nest during the summer by weaving small branches together. The nest is lined with grass, moss, pine needles, and leaves. The nests are built 30 feet off the ground in the fork between a tree limb and the tree trunk.
We conducted our observations at three sites: W1 trail, W4 trail, and Creekside Trail. At each site, we counted the number of squirrel nests, measured the height and circumference of each nest tree. We compared the composition of trees close to the nest tree and in the general vicinity of the nest tree.
We found a total of 12 squirrel nests. There was no difference in the circumference of trees with nests and the circumference of trees without nests. About 50 percent of the trees close to nest trees were red oak. About 25 percent of the trees in the general vicinity of nest trees were red oak.
Our data suggest that squirrels prefer to nest in areas where there are more red oak trees. There was no difference in the circumference of nest trees and neighboring trees. Squirrels did not choose the largest trees, but instead were looking for the best place in a tree to build their nests.