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Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) Observed Using a Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) Burrow

Alex D. Potash1,2, Chris M. Murphy2,3,*, J.T. Pynne2,3, Robert A. McCleery1, L. Mike Conner2,Steven B. Castleberry3, and Lora L. Smith2

1Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611. 2The Jones Center at Ichauway, Newton, GA 39870. 3D.B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 19, Issue 1 (2020): N14–N19

Many sympatric species use Gopherus polyphemus (Gopher Tortoise) burrows as refugia from predators, extreme temperatures, and fire. As part of an ongoing project involving trail-camera monitoring at Gopher Tortoise burrows, we observed a Sciurus niger (Eastern Fox Squirrel) sheltering in an occupied burrow twice in a single day. Eastern Fox Squirrels primarily forage on the ground, and Gopher Tortoise burrows likely offer refuge from avian predators but could expose Eastern Fox Squirrels to increased predation risk from mammalian and reptilian predators. Alternatively, the squirrel may have been seeking refuge from higher-than-average temperatures. Our observation further demonstrates the importance of Gopher Tortoise burrows to vertebrate fauna in the southeastern United States.

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