Behavior of black and gray morphs of Sciurus carolinensis in an urban environment

  • Gustafson E
  • VanDruff L
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Melanism in the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is currently found primarily in urban populations and near the northern limit of the species' range. Selected behaviors were examined in Syracuse, New York, to determine if significant differences exist between black and gray morphs which may have survival implications in urban environments and perhaps throughout the range of the gray squirrel. No differences in wariness between the morphs was demonstrated when flight response to approaching humans and dogs was tested. Although males were dominant over females and initiators of encounters usually were victors, neither color morph was more dominant in aggressive encounters at feeding stations. Quantification of sunning behavior during the months of February and March revealed no differences in behavioral thermoregulation between the two morphs. These results suggest that the distribution of color morphs is not due to pleiotropic behavioral trait differences, that neither morph is likely to have a mating advantage, and the variation among demes suggests random factors (drift).

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  • Eric J. Gustafson

  • Larry W. VanDruff

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