Fox Squirrel Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) is the largest of the tree squirrels. It is one of the most common squirrel species. They have long bushy tail and golden brown body and are often confused with the eastern fox squirrel. Fox squirrel is a native animal of North America. They are active during the day.

Fox Squirrel Facts

Anatomy

  • The fox squirrel grows to a body length of about 45 to 70 cm (17.7 to 27.6 in) and the tail adds 20 to 33 cm (7.9 to 13.0 in) to the entire length.
  • Adult fox squirrel weighs up to 500 to 1,000 grams (1.1 to 2.2 lb). Male and female are nearly the same size. Squirrels living in the west are thought to be smaller.
  • They have developed sharp claws and forearms which help them to climb as high as they possibly can.
  • The squirrel has a remarkable sense of smell and acute hearing sense.
  • Fox squirrels have got dense whiskers that serve as touch receptors to sense the surrounding.
  • The hairs are all around chin, nose, forearm and even the eyes.

Distribution

  • Fox squirrels are thought to occur in the eastern United States including the southern provinces of Canada as well as Texas, Dakotas, and Colorado.
  • They are not found in the eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New England.
  • Authorities have also introduced fox squirrels in California, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, and Washington.
fox squirrel facts
Fox Squirrel ©www.csmonitor.com

Habitat

  • While fox squirrels are not very selective in their habitats they feel nevertheless comfortable in open forest patches that are dominated by trees such as walnut, oak, pine, and hickory. The western species seem to prefer cottonwood corridors.
  • The eastern squirrels might not build homes in vegetation with thick undergrowth. Prominent among these trees are pines and oaks. Fox squirrels will forage several hundred meters but not going too far from the woodlot.
  • They are thought to inhabit the forest edge habitat. During winter, squirrels are more likely to live in tree dens than leaf dens although both dens make squirrel’s homes. However when tree dens become short squirrels fancy choosing leaf dens for rearing young.
  • In the summer, fox squirrels often choose leaf dens. They typically build dens on deciduous trees at a height of 30 feet above the ground. Sometimes they also utilize forked tree branches as tree dens.
  • Fox squirrel’s dens go 14–16 inches (36–41 cm) deep with the width measuring about 6 inches (15 cm). The measurement of den’s openings is 2.9 to 3.7 inches (7.4 to 9.4 cm).
  • They will also make homes in natural cavities that are abandoned by other birds such as northern flickers (Colaptes auratus) and red-headed woodpeckers. The eastern squirrels often occupy crow’s nest.
  • They fancy living in forests that are abundant in mature trees because these trees provide a large number of sites.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Depending on the geographic location, fox squirrels have got different dietary behaviors. The eastern species seem to feed on tubers, pine seeds, mast, insects, tree buds, fungi, bird eggs, and spring trees.
  • Squirrels supplement their diet with agricultural crops such as oats, corn, wheat, soybeans, and fruits.
  • The eastern squirrels often consume southern red oak, bluejack oak, live oak, turkey oak, post oak, and blackjack oak.
  • In the months of August to September, fox squirrels love to eat hickories but they also consume osage orange, pecans, corn, and black walnuts. In May and June, they rely heavily on mulberries.
  • Fox squirrel’s diet also includes honey locust, wheat, ash seeds, Kentucky coffee tree, eastern red cedar seeds, corn, bark, and berries.
  • The eastern species are thought to feed on maple, oaks, buds of elm, and sprouting leaves.
  • Fox squirrels in Ohio will consume black walnuts, hickory nuts, corns, buckeyes, buds of maple, blackberries, willow, and acorns.
fox squirrel facts
Fox Squirrel ©www.agfc.com

Behavior

  • Fox squirrels are highly diurnal as they spend most of their daytime on the ground. That is not to say that they cannot climb. Fox squirrels are brilliant climbers because they got sharp claws an forearms.
  • They are not territorial animals instead fox squirrels are extremely playful. Outside the breeding season, squirrels move alone.
  • They have got the sounds such as chucking or
  • Fox squirrels good jumpers.

Reproductive Biology

  • A female squirrel produces 1 – 2 litters each year. They attain maturity at 10 – 11 months age.
  • The mating occurs in mid-December or in early January.
  • The gestation period lasts about 6 weeks.
  • Unlike most other rodents, fox squirrels take time to develop. They are born blind and naked. Young squirrels open eyes in about 40 – 45 days of the birth.
  • The weaning period lasts about 84 – 100 days.
  • Many squirrels could not reach adulthood most of them die of predation or overhunting. The maximum lifespan of female fox squirrels is 12 – 12.5 years while males live up to 8 – 8.5 years. The captive squirrel has lived up to 18 years.
  • Predators of fox squirrels include; barred owls, foxes, great horned owls, dogs, red-tailed hawks, rat snakes, opossums, bobcats, pine snakes, and possums.
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