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Assessing Habitat Suitability for Squirrels on Campus


Ivan A. Mendoza
Department of Natural Sciences
Malone University
Jason R. Courter
Department of Natural Sciences
Malone University


Squirrels are frequent and beloved residents of college campuses throughout the United States, but oftentimes less welcomed by campus maintenance officials who report squirrels nesting in buildings, interfering with airflow from heating and cooling units, and destroying gutters. In this laboratory case, students act as members of a fictitious “squirrel task force” appointed by their campus administrators to provide recommendations for how to manage their school’s squirrel population.  Students work in groups to assess the habitat suitability of their campus for squirrels by identifying and measuring trees that provide seasonal food for squirrels, and by identifying desirable hunting perches for common squirrel predators.  Students conduct squirrel surveys in designated campus zones to calculate the number of squirrels per acre on their campus and compare it with mean squirrel densities reported in forested areas and at a rival institution.  Students then compile and synthesize class data to provide management recommendations for university maintenance officials for either increasing or decreasing campus squirrel populations. Originally developed for an undergraduate wildlife biology course, the case could also be used in a lower-division biology or environmental studies course.


  • Identify characteristics of their campus that make it suitable for squirrels.
  • Compare ecological field data from different treatment groups and interpret statistical results.
  • Synthesize ecological field data and prepare management recommendations in a manner suitable for professional presentation.


Squirrel; data collection; campus management; ecological assessment; habitat suitability; hawks; t-test

Topical Areas

Regulatory issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division


PDF, Word

Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Laboratory



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Ecology  |   Environmental Science  |   Natural Resource Management  |   Science (General)  |   Wildlife Management  |   Zoology  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

The file below includes Microsoft Word versions of the “Campus Habitat Suitability Data Sheet” and the “Campus Squirrel Survey Data Sheet.”

  squirrel_campus_sup.docx (~26KB)

Answer Key

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