Final Proposal, Even the squirrels are different

This topic submitted by Mike, Naosuke, Jermey, Amanda and Lyndsey (lynsvike@hotmail.com) at 1:15 pm on 11/2/99. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Myers

ABSTRACT

Our goal is to study the behavior of gray squirrels in Oxford, Ohio. We will
compare the activities of squirrels that live on main campus to those that live on Western
Campus. Our group will measure their predatory response to determine which group of
squirrels is more sensitive to human presence. We will also look at the squirrelís
tendency to learn and adapt to threats and changes in their environment. We hypothesize
that squirrels on main campus are less likely to flee from humans than squirrels on
Western Campus. Our group also believes that squirrels do adapt to their environment.
This adaptation causes main campus squirrels to be comfortable with everday human
activity, while it causes Western Campus squirrels to be more cautious around people.

INTRODUCTION
The main diet of squirrels consist of tree seeds and masts. While in season
squirrels prefer to eat fruits, flowers, leave buds, bark, roots, fungi, and carrion (Allen 1.)
Their main source of water is from the plants they consume and pools of water near their
inhabitancy (Allen 2). Their food source also provides a home for the animals.
The gray squirrel finds its habitat in the branches of trees. They gray squirrel
makes its den in mature hardwood forests which have dense ground cover. Trees they
prefer to make a den in are ash, elm, oak, hickory, beech, bald cypress, sycamore,
sassafras, and basswood (mostly in the eastern United States) (Allen 3). These trees are
used to rear their young and to provide shelter during the winter (Allen 2).
The gray squirrel has various types of defense mechanisms to protect themselves
and their young. A gray squirrel will fiercely defend their pups and burrow and when
provoked will attack and bite. A known predator of the squirrel is a snake. Squirrels have
adapted to snakes by being able to tell the size of the snake and how likely it is to strike.
This is one of many ways in which squirrels have come to adapt to their surroundings.
(Kelly Stewart, Dept. of Anthropology, University of California, Davis,
http://www.anthro.ucdavis.edu/features/stp/stpsquir.htm)
A squirrel when startled utters a sound like ëkuksí and showing quick rigid tail
flicks. The tail may be considered an alarm response. Slow ëkuksí are an indication of
alarm and associated with tail waving and ëquaaí sounds which are vocalized at a higher
frequency. Immediately after an animal has been frightened, interval sounds are short and
as danger passes, the intervals become short. (Robert H. Horwich, The ontogeny of social
behavior in the gray squirrel, pp.28)
As areas become more humanly populated squirrels are forced to find new ways
of surviving. Squirrels are adapting in some ways almost to well for some people. They
are live in our attics, eat out of our gardens, running under our lawn mower, get trapped
in chimneys, fall in to swimming pools and drown (Wild 2). It seems that every where
you look there is a squirrel.
Its a fact that in some areas such as Washington DC ìsquirrels have become as
numerous as bureaucrats, and government buildings have put up no feeding signs. One
guy has become so aggressive about hand outs that he climbs up your leg(wreaks havoc
on you nylons) to get the food. Others will take a nut and chase you down the street for
more if they feel shortedî (Wild 1). These of course are extreme examples of what has
happened between people and our furry friends.
It is a well known fact that the population of Western Campus is smaller than the
main campus of Miami University. We have chosen to study the differences between the
squirrels on the Western Campus of Miami University and the squirrels on the main
campus. Our group wants to see that if squirrels in this area (Miami University) have
been affected by the amount of Miami students that walk by them everyday. Our
hypothesis is that since there are more people and a higher density on the main campus
squirrels that are on the main campus will let humans walk closer to them than the
squirrels on the Western Campus where there is not as high density of people. This is an
interesting subject to our group because with the explosion in the population of the
human race it is obvious that some areas of nature will need to adapt in order to survive.
We will take the measurement from where the person is standing to where the squirrel
feels threatened and starts to run. We will document the environment that the squirrel
was in when it ran in order to get a homogeneous view that our squirrels were in.

METHODS
Many observations need to be made before the experiments themselves can
begging to have any significance. First there must be a survey of the physical layout of
the area where the experiments will take place. We will find an average of the trees in
each area to look at the escape routes offered for the squirrels. We will do this in four
areas of main campus, Academic, South and North quads, as well as Bishop woods.
There will be three areas in Western, Boyd field, the area between Patterson and the
Western Alumni Hall, and the wooded area beside Bishop hall. ( weíll refer to this as
Bishop field.) Average population of both main and Western campus will also be found
through research and will be factored into or results. These numbers will be used to
compare the distances and adaptation of the squirrels.
The actual experimentation involving squirrels will occur in the areas above
mentioned in both Western and Main. This is when the students will be used. The
students will be used to do our squirrel counting. The class will be split up into seven
groups of three and each of these groups will be sent to one of the seven sections: North,
South, Academic quads, Bishop field, Boyd field and Patterson/Alumni field. Each
group will be given two pieces of fifty foot string, masking tape (two pieces marked for
each measurement), and a campus map. Each group will be asked to approach and
measure for at least seven different squirrels, more if time allows. One member of the
group will approach a squirrel at a somewhat slow pace while the other two pay close
attention to the squirrels current location. As soon as the squirrel moves, the approached
must stop and the distance between him/her and the previous location of the squirrel.
The measurements will be taken by using one end of the string as the place of the
approached and marking the squirrelís location with the appropriately numbered pieces
of masking tape. The distance between the squirrelís previous location and the nearest
tree will also be measured using a similar method, except making the squirrel the end of
the string and placing the masking tape at the location of the nearest tree. This
measurement will be used to look at the squirrelís feelings of safety and security, by
looking for itís nearest escape route. The results from each region will then be compared
to decipher which squirrels have the smallest personal space. These results will then be
used to determine the adaptation tendencies of squirrels. We are specifically looking at
whether squirrels have the ability and do adapt, we will not be looking at the things that
affect the squirrelís tendencies to flee.


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