Tree squirrels are one of the most familiar mammals found in urban areas and are considered both desirable around homes and, conversely, a pest. We examined fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) habitat use in inner city and suburban areas using radiotelemetry. We estimated habitat selection ratios at differing scales by season and fox squirrel activity. Telemetry data suggests that during periods of inactivity radiocollared fox squirrels (n = 82) selected 1) areas with greater tree canopy, 2) live oaks (Quercus fusiromis and Q. virginiana), and 3) trees with larger diameters and canopies. When inactive during the winter and spring, fox squirrels also preferred, within their core areas, to use the inside of buildings, and during periods of activity in the autumn and spring, fox squirrels preferred grassy areas. During periods of activity, fox squirrels avoided using pavement but did not exclude it from their core-area movements. Fox squirrels' ability to use buildings and to tolerate pavement in core-area movements make vast areas of the urban environment available to fox squirrels. In evaluating habitat variables that increased fox squirrel activity in urban areas, we found the number of large and medium trees, amount of pavement and grassy areas, canopy cover, number of oaks, and the area covered by buildings were all important factors in predicting fox squirrel activity in an urban environment. Our data suggests urban planners, animal damage control officials, wildlife managers, and landscapers who want to control urban fox squirrel populations through habitat manipulation should consider the reduction of oaks trees, a reduction of the canopy cover, and restricting the access of fox squirrels to buildings. Alternatively, home owners and squirrel enthusiasts hoping to bolster fox squirrel populations in urban areas should consider increasing the number of large mast–bearing trees and canopy cover and providing nest boxes.
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Vol. 71 • No. 4