A1 Journal article – refereed
Roads are no barrier for dispersing red squirrels in an urban environment

List of Authors: Fey K, Hamalainen S, Selonen V
Publication year: 2016
Journal: Behavioral Ecology
Journal name in source: BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY
Journal acronym: BEHAV ECOL
Volume number: 27
Issue number: 3
ISSN: 1045-2249
eISSN: 1465-7279

In urban environments, roads are one of the major threats for moving animals. Roads can act as barriers to movement either through mortality during crossing attempts or through behavioral avoidance. This can have severe population-level consequences such as population fragmentation and demographic or genetic isolation. A major limitation for determining the effects of roads, however, is the lack of studies on responses of animals to roads during dispersal. In a radiotelemetry study, we investigated the responses of dispersing juvenile red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) to roads in an urban environment in Finland. We observed that, during routine movements within their home range, squirrels were located further from roads and crossed them less frequently than simulated random walk paths, while they did not avoid roads when performing explorative and dispersal movements. Moreover, during routine movements squirrels rarely crossed roads with high traffic volume, whereas during dispersal, they crossed both big and small roads. Traffic did not seem to be a major cause of mortality for juvenile squirrels, based on our observations. Our study provides striking evidence that movement behavior during dispersal differs from that of nondispersers. For road ecology, this implies that the evaluation of the role of roads as barriers for, for example, gene flow cannot be based on the interpretation of movements of nondispersers.

Last updated on 2019-20-07 at 05:11