We investigated the effects of thinning young (35- to 45-yr-old) Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) forests on density, survival, body mass, movements, and diets of northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) in the northern coast range of Oregon. We used a repeated measures, randomized block design with 3 treatments (control, moderate thinning, and heavy thinning) and 4 replicates to study diets and population characteristics from 1994-1997. Densities of flying squirrels were variable in space and time, but they were positively correlated to biomass and frequency of fungal sporocarps, suggesting they were responding to food resources rather than forest structure. Fungal sporocarps comprised a major portion of the squirrel's diet, and other vegetative material made up the remainder of the diet. Several fungal genera including Gautieria, Geopora, Hymenogaster, Hysterangium, Melanogaster, and Rhizopogon were found more frequently in diets than on the trapping grids and therefore appeared to be selected by the squirrels. Flying squirrel movements were negatively correlated with the frequency of occurrence of fungal sporocarps at trap stations, suggesting that squirrels traveled greater distances to find fungal sporocarps where these food items were more sparsely distributed. We hypothesized that flying squirrel densities would be relatively low in these young, structurally simple forests; however, densities on some of the grids were >1.5 squirrels/ha, which was comparable to densities described for the species in late-successional forests. Our results indicated that commercial thinning did not have measurable short-term effects on density, survival, or body mass of flying squirrels.
Additional publication details
Influence of thinning of Douglas-fir forests on population parameters and diet of northern flying squirrels