If you are participating in this year’s Annual Brevard Squirrel Count, we sincerely thank you! This survey will help us monitor the distribution and abundance of Brevard’s resident white squirrel population. The data from this year’s count will be available to the public on our website (currently at www.brevardnc.org/research-institute). In the meantime you may wish to examine the website for results of previous counts and other squirrel information.
The entire study area is approximately three square miles following the original city limits with Brevard Middle School to the north, Brevard High School to the south, Brevard Elementary School to the east, and Brevard Music Center to the west. It is divided into 35 Sectors each of which is approximately ~50 acres in size (view study area). You will receive (1) a Brevard road map to help locate your assigned Sector, and (2) a detailed map of your Sector on which to record observations (an example of the former for Sector 19 can be seen by clicking Road Map; detailed Sector maps of the 35 individual Sectors can be accessed here). In the past we have attempted to carry out the entire count simultaneously (from 8:00-10:00 a.m. on the first three Saturdays of October). That did not prove to be practical. We now prefer to pre-assign Sectors and allow volunteers to select the actual date and time of their observations with the following guidelines:
• Each sector should be counted three times this Fall before Christmas. It is preferable but not necessary to space them approximately one week apart.
• Avoid high traffic hours (for example, 8:00 a.m. near schools during the week or 9:30-12:00 a.m. on Sunday’s near churches).
• If possible, avoid these times: (1) before 8:00 a.m. EDT (2) between noon and 2:00 p.m. EDT (especially on warm sunny days) or (3) after 7:00 p.m. EDT, as squirrels are less active during these times. This should not affect the observed percent white but may lower the sample size making the observations less reliable.
• Avoid unusual weather conditions, especially high winds. Note: squirrels may actually be more active during a light drizzle but it makes for an unpleasant experience for squirrel counters.
• Try to complete your Sector within two hours of the time you begin. This should not be problem if you walk at a leisurely pace stopping only to record observations. Most observers take about one hour per Sector but some Sectors are much larger than others.
It is our hope that each participating volunteer or organization will complete all three counts for that Sector but any data collected will be welcomed. Ordinarily, only one or two observers are needed to complete each one of the three counts for a given Sector. Therefore, larger organizations are encouraged to accept additional assignments. Once you have an assigned Sector, please designate a contact person. The necessary maps and datasheets will be assembled into a packet and delivered (or otherwise made available) to that person. The contact person would then be responsible for distributing the materials to participating members of your organization and upon completion, returning them to the command center (Heart of Brevard office). Thank you.
During the approximately two hour interval of the count, you should walk the area of the Sector Map one time. Be aware that sometimes there are inaccuracies in the details of the map. Take a moment and plan your path ahead of time. Doubling back may result in some squirrels being counted twice but may be unavoidable. On the second pass, don’t count squirrels of the same color unless you see more of them or they are distinctive in size or markings. Even when not doubling back care must be taken. Squirrels are quirky, changing direction and speed frequently. Particularly in brushy or wooded areas it is sometimes difficult to tell if you are seeing one squirrel whirling about or if the first one flushed out another foraging in the same area. Use your best judgment. We believe these types of errors cancel out in the long run.
Do not be afraid to visit backyards and wooded areas since these are tree squirrels and are rarely found far from mature trees but please do not climb fences or enter other restricted areas. Ask permission when appropriate. Using a clipboard not only makes recording information easier but makes you look “official.” Our experience has been that once people realize what you are doing, you are more than welcome; in fact, being able to “move on” in a timely way may become a problem.
We do not expect to see every squirrel that resides in the study area. The Count is intended to be a random sample that estimates the % of the white variant. The larger the sample size and the more complete the count, the more accurate the data will be. Look carefully in areas where you observe nests (if you have time, record the location of the nest on your map with an N), on the ground near (and in) large trees, around feeders, etc., as these are areas that squirrels frequent. Listen for clucking sounds (“chuck, chuck, kwaaaa”) but, obviously, you must see the squirrel to determine if it is white or gray. We understand that:
• Some areas in your assigned Sector will be inaccessible.
• Not all squirrels in your Sector will be out foraging during the time period you select.
• Not all squirrels that are out foraging will not be visible for a variety of reasons (obstructed view, timing, etc.).
We will attempt to account for these factors by other means. Our objective is primarily to estimate the percent of squirrels in the area that are of the white versus gray variety, not to complete a census. To that end, it is just important that you complete as large a sample of your Sector as possible in the allotted time.
After a sighting, record the location of the squirrel on the detailed Sector Map with a W for white or a G for gray. IT IS JUST AS IMPORTANT TO OBSERVE AND RECORD GRAY SQUIRRELS AS WHITE ONES! If the squirrel was up in a tree (as opposed to foraging on the ground or posed on the base of the tree trunk), place the W or G over a T. Only about 10% of squirrels are usually observed in the tree proper. This may have to do with perceptibility but probably also reflects their actual distribution during diurnal activity. If you think the squirrel is a juvenile use lower case; however since it is sometimes difficult to distinguish “W” from “w”, please circle the w if it is a white juvenile. If you are uncertain as to whether it is an adult or juvenile, don’t be concerned; just mark “G” or “W”. While this additional information may be useful for future studies, we are not actually distinguishing between adults and juveniles in this count. Record “road kills” on the Sector map with WK or GK and include in your final tally totals (if the same dead squirrel seems to be reported on multiple counts, a correction will be made later).
If you see a squirrel on an adjacent Sector, you may record its approximate location off the edges of your map BUT DO NOT INCLUDE IT IN THE TALLY TOTALS FOR YOUR SECTOR. If your Sector and an adjacent one are separated by a street, then the midline of the road marks the boundary. If you note any interesting behaviors, predators (including cats, dogs, etc.) that may effect squirrel activity in that area, mark an O (for “Observation”) on the Map and then include a description on the data sheet (use the back if necessary). When you finish your assignment please tabulate the results. THE MOST IMPORTANT ENTRIES ON THE DATASHEET ARE THE TOTAL WHITE AND TOTAL GRAY. Please return all paper work to the command center (Heart of Brevard office) in a timely fashion.
Detailed maps (without the summary table) of the individual 35 Sectors can be found and printed by clicking here.