Food preferences of captive northern flying squirrels from the Lassen National Forest in northeastern California
Zabel, Cynthia J.
Waters, Jeffrey R.
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Hypogeous sporocarps of mycorrhizal fungi (truffles) are a common food of northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) and many other species of small mammals. Forest management practices and natural disturbances can affect both total amounts and species composition of truffles. We conducted cafeteria-style feeding trials to compare preferences of northern flying squirrels captured in the Lassen National Forest in northeastern California among sporocarps of 5 species of fungi (3 truffle species and 2 species of secotioid fungi), 2 species of lichens, and fir (Abies magnifica and A. concolor) seeds. Feeding trials were performed on 7 male squirrels for 4 consecutive nights. Mean proportion of food eaten varied significantly among the 3 truffle species, between the 2 species of secotioid fungi, and between the 2 lichen species. Mean proportion of food eaten was greatest for 2 of the truffle species, followed by the lichen Bryoria fremontii. These results indicate that northern flying squirrels preferred truffles over certain types of other naturally occurring foods, and that preference varied significantly among sporocarps of different fungal species. Natural disturbance and forest management that alter the species composition of fungal sporocarps are likely to affect the availability of foods preferred by northern flying squirrels