Home / Outdoors & Environment / Fox squirrels: The gray squirrel’s colorful cousin
Fox squirrels: The gray squirrel’s colorful cousin

Fox squirrels: The gray squirrel’s colorful cousin

Auburn, Alabama — Have you ever wondered what species of squirrel roam around your backyard?

If you have noticed a large, colorful squirrel venturing about your backyard, you may have fox squirrels calling your property home.

The Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) is often found in Canada and the Eastern part of the United States. They are fairly common in Alabama and currently have a status of low conservation concern. This means their population size is doing well and they do not require protection as a threatened or endangered species.

They are the largest species of tree squirrels in the Western Hemisphere. Their size and color are often what distinguishes them from other squirrel species, like the gray squirrel.

“On average, fox squirrels tend to be larger than gray squirrels,” said Jordan Graves, Alabama Extension regional forestry, wildlife and natural resources agent. “Gray squirrels typically weigh around a pound or so, while adult fox squirrels can weigh twice as much.”

Characteristics

People often notice the different colors that make up a fox squirrel’s fur. They can have brown, red, orange, black, white, silver, grey and even tan colors In their fur.

“Coloration is easily a distinguishing difference,” said Graves. “Gray squirrels are normally a light gray or grayish brown with predominantly white bellies, and white fringe along their gray tails. In contrast, fox squirrels typically have orange or rust colored backs and sides. They also have orange/rust coloring, sometimes with little white, on their bellies and black fringe along their tails. Some will also have a black mask around their eyes.”

Fox squirrels prefer forested landscapes rather than open grassland or young forests. They can be found in a variety of forest types, from upland pine forests to bottomland hardwoods.

“Many sightings of fox squirrels occur in mature pine stands,” said Graves. “This could lead people to believe that they prefer pine stands; however, it could just be that fox squirrels are more easily spotted in older open pine stands than thick hardwood bottoms with more cover.”

They feeds on acorns, nuts, seeds, fruit, flowers and plant buds, but  do prefer pine seeds when they are available.

“They can cause issues similar to gray squirrels, such as getting into bird feeders or attics, chewing up personal property, etc.” said Graves.

 

Featured Image by Ramona Edwards/Shutterstock.com.

About Rachael Barnes