Do squirrels in human disturbed areas become habituated to humans? A measure of flight initiation distance across disturbance gradients

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Megan D Bjordal


Human population growth results in destruction of natural habitats, although some animals are adapting to living in areas with human disturbance. North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) may be one such species that is successfully adapting to living alongside humans. Flight initiation distance, the distance at which an animal flees from an approaching predator, may act as an indicator of habituation to humans. I predicted that if North American red squirrels were habituating to humans, their flight initiation distance would decrease along a gradient of increasing human disturbance. To examine this, I measured flight initiation distances of 39 North American red squirrels across eight sites, classified as low, medium or high human disturbance areas. No significant difference was found in mean flight initiation distances between disturbance levels, indicating that squirrel flight initiation distance may not be sensitive to small scales of human disturbance gradients.