Elusive Carolina Northern Flying Squirrels in Red Spruce Forests Face Survival Challenges
The Carolina northern flying squirrel is only known to occur in 13 mountain peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and southwestern Virginia. Due to the rugged landscape it inhabits there has been limited research on its habits and ecology. A Forest Service researcher was part of a team that used radio-telemetry to determine that the squirrel prefers to nest in yellow birch trees and requires stands of mature red spruce for its foraging habitat. Subterranean truffles and other fungi found in the spruce forest are an important component of this squirrel's diet. The current distribution range of red spruce is a fraction of what it was in the early 1900s, and an increase in oak and maple in the region has benefited a competing species, the southern flying squirrel. The latter species competes with northern flying squirrels for roost locations and is a host for a parasitic roundworm that is fatal to Carolina northern flying squirrels. Land management to increase red spruce on the landscape may deter further colonization of these areas by the southern flying squirrel and may provide some resiliency for the Carolina northern flying squirrel in the face of global climate change.
|Late winter and early spring home range and habitat use of the endangered Carolina northern flying squirrel in western North Carolina||(publication)|
Forest Service Partners