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Eastern Fox Squirrel

Eastern Fox Squirrel
Sciurus niger
(Order:  Rodentia, Family:  Sciuridae)


Description:  The Eastern Fox squirrel is larger than the Eastern Gray Squirrel and tends to spend more time on the ground rather than in the trees.  They have an orange-red coat and a brown, bushy tail with an orange tint and fringe.  This squirrel is approximately 45-71 cm (18-28 inches) in body length, have a tail length of 17-33 cm (7-13 inches), and generally weigh 0.45-1.4 kg (1-3 pounds).


Squirrel tracks

Range and Habitat:  Eastern Fox Squirrels range from northeast Mexico through the eastern half of the United States into south-central Canada.  They are common in oak-hickory woodlands and wooded parks and neighborhoods throughout Kansas.

Diet:  They generally feed on nuts, seeds, berries, buds and insects, and will sometimes eat bird eggs and nestlings.

Behavior and Communication:  Fox squirrels are diurnal and spend most of their time foraging on the ground, where they move with a rolling walk or hop.  It caches nuts, especially in autumn, in shallow holes in the ground, and is important in seed dispersal.  When frightened, it will retreat to the nearest tree.  Once in the protection of the tree it will hide behind trunk or limb until the intruder passes by, and they tend to “bark” at the intruder as a warning sign.  Like gray squirrels, fox squirrels commonly rest on horizontal limbs with the tail arched over the animal's back.  They are even known to lay on the ground to rest.  Owls, red-tailed hawks, foxes, and coyotes are the main predators of fox squirrels. Longevity in the wild for females is up to 12 years; males may live up to 8 years.

Video of the Eastern Fox Squirrel: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZ1AoXkKXNc

Reproduction:  These squirrels nest in trees.  In Kansas, breeding occurs in January and February, and again in June, with mating chases being conspicuous.  Females two years old and older can have two litters per year, whereas young females born the previous year can only have one.  After a gestation period of about 45 days the female gives birth to a litter of one to seven young.  The young remain with the female for three months, or longer if they are born in late summer.

Conservation Status:  This species is of Least Concern according to the IUCN red list due to its wide distribution, presumed large population, occurrence in a number of protected areas, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category.


References:

Cockrum, E. L.  1952. Mammals of Kansas. Univ. Kansas Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. 7:1-303.

Links:

Great Plains Nature Center:  http://www.gpnc.org/squirrelef.htm

North American Mammals: http://www.mnh.si.edu/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=299

Mammals of Kansas:  http://www.ksr.ku.edu/libres/Mammals_of_Kansas/fox-squir.html

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/20016/0


Image Credits:

Track prints figure by:  http://www.ksr.ku.edu/libres/Mammals_of_Kansas/fox-squir.html

U.S. Distribution Map by:  http://www.mnh.si.edu/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=299

Pictures of Sciurus niger by: Casey Cantrell, July 2011


Submitted by: Casey Cantrell, July 2011

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Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
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