Palmer, G. H., J. L. Koprowski, and A. J. Pernas. 2014. Distribution and spread of an introduced insular population of red-bellied squirrels (Sciurus aureogaster) in Florida. Mammalia 78: 67-73
Introduced populations of species pose one of the greatest threats to the persistence of native species. Documentation of distribution, range expansion and habitat use of introduced populations are key components of developing effective management strategies for the control and eradication of invasive species. In 2006 and 2007, we surveyed four islands in Biscayne National Park for nests to evaluate the presence of red-bellied squirrels (Sciurus aureogaster) and the distribution and index of dispersion of their nests in the Florida Keys archipelago within the Atlantic Ocean. Red-bellied squirrels were initially introduced to Elliott Key, Florida, USA in in 1938. We documented evidence of squirrels on two additional islands, Sands Key and Old Rhodes Key, which adds to concerns of spread of this introduced squirrel to areas with endangered endemic insular mammals. Squirrel nests were documented only in mixed-hardwood forest, and nests had a clumped distribution within this forest type. Range expansion was a chief concern to the National Park Service, as continued spread could result in squirrels exiting the park, and prompted management action. Understanding nest site selection and distribution was critical for developing an eradication strategy for the introduced population of red-bellied squirrels from south Florida.