Home, Sweet Nest Box: A Comparison of Detection Methods for the Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans) in Ozaukee and Washington Counties, WI

Amanda Holly Keyes


The purpose of this field study was to compare detection methods for Glaucomys volans through installation of nest boxes and wildlife cameras in Ozaukee and Washington Counties in Wisconsin, and to determine an optimal setup for using a feeding tray with a wildlife camera.  G. volans does not have special conservation status, but requires wooded habitat.  The wooded areas do not have to be large parcels of land, as proven by documentation of populations of G. volans in highly urban and fragmented areas.  With the rapid onset of habitat change to address agricultural needs, residential or commercial planning, and the continued import of exotic species; forest compositions are changing.  An understanding of the most effective detection methods for this species could facilitate the development of more targeted management strategies for Southern flying squirrel populations.  G. volans has never been documented in the high-quality, old-growth, beech-maple forest at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Field Station in Saukville, Wisconsin.  Ten nest boxes were secured to trees transecting the Field Station forest.  The boxes were checked once a month for nesting material, nuts, or G. volans.  An additional method used for detection was a wildlife camera trained on a feeding tray, capturing images of nocturnal visitors.  A separate wildlife camera was used in Slinger, Wisconsin, where flying squirrels have been documented previously.  The information from these cameras was used to compare the time, temperature, food preference, and behavior at the feeding tray between Slinger and the Field Station site in order to discern whether flying squirrels exhibited differential behavior at these sites.  At the Field Station, the peak times of activity for the squirrels to visit the feeding tray were between 6 PM - 9 PM and then again from 11 PM – 4 AM.  The peak times of activity for the camera in Slinger, Wisconsin were between 5 PM – 7 PM, 9 PM – 10 PM, and 12 AM – 3 AM.  At the Field Station, Southern flying squirrels exhibited a preference for sunflower seeds over peanuts and the squirrels were most active in the tray around the edges, rather than in the center.  Conclusions about food preference and behavior at the tray could not be drawn from the images taken at the Slinger location due to inability to conclusively identify these behaviors.  The wildlife camera proved superior to the nest boxes for detection of flying squirrels.  It took 18 days to first detect flying squirrels at the Field Station using cameras, while flying squirrels were never detected at this location in the nest boxes.  An increased understanding of the best detection methods for G. volans can lead to the preservation and management of appropriate habitat, leading to continued survivability and sustainability for this species into the future.


Southern Flying Squirrel; Wisconsin; Detection Methods

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