Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date



The goal of this study was to observe the foraging behavior of Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) on the University of Maine campus. The study tested whether squirrels in a more urban setting followed the optimal foraging theory, or if rarity of a food type played a greater factor in food selection. The study also examined whether urban squirrel behavior mimicked that of wild squirrels when presented with a food type uncommon on campus, but common in other parts of Maine, specifically the acorns of the white oak tree (Quercus alba). In three different areas on the campus, squirrels were given a number of different food types: English walnuts (Juglans regia), Spanish peanuts (Arachis hypogaea), red oak acorns (Quercus rubra), white oak acorns, and sunflower seeds (Helianthus annuus). Data were collected on which food item was taken and if they chose to eat or cache the item they had chosen. An overall pattern of the order in which the squirrels took the food was then established. Nutritional content was then taken into consideration to see if the squirrels followed the optimal foraging theory and if their behavior correlated with wild squirrels. A chi-square test confirmed the significance of their behavior. It was found that in the face of novel food types, squirrels do indeed follow the optimal foraging theory, and are able to estimate the profitability of food items. They do indeed follow the natural behaviors of eastern gray squirrels found in less urban settings.

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Zoology Commons