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BY Tes Jolly on Jul. 23, 2019

Species Profile: The Fox Squirrel – Interesting Facts and Management Tips


As gamekeepers our habitat and timber management practices not only benefit targeted game species like deer, wild turkey and quail, but other local non-game wildlife also benefit from our efforts. One example is the fox squirrel, (Sciurus niger).

With short ears and common mask-like facial pattern, the fox squirrel obviously gets its handle from a fox because of its much larger size, common reddish-brown color and fox-like lope when it scampers along the ground.

Ten North American subspecies are recognized and widely distributed from the Atlantic coast to the Great Plains, and from South Florida to the Great Lakes and Canadian border.

Fox squirrels may be vexing to our management efforts at times, but their distinctive appearance and interesting characteristics make their presence uniquely special. As “Nature’s tree planters” they add value to the environment and our outdoor experience.

Did you know the Fox Squirrel...

  • is the Western Hemisphere’s largest tree squirrel. Adults average 2.5 pounds and measure up to 27.5 inches; about half of the length is tail.
  • has uniquely flexible ankle joints which allow it to rotate its feet 180 degrees as it descends tree trunks head first. It can hand by its hind limbs while rasping food in its front feet. An agile jumper, it easily makes fifteen feet horizontal leaps and free-falls twenty feet or more to a soft landing.
  • sweats through its paws in hot weather, leaving damp tracks on a dry surface.
  • has relatively few predators as an adult. Most are taken opportunistically by bobcats, foxes, red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, great-horned owls, barred owls and dogs. Nestlings and young are vulnerable to raccoons, opossums, rat snakes and pine snakes.
Photo: Tes Jolly




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