The Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger), also known as the
Stump-eared Squirrel, is the largest species of tree squirrels
native to North America.
Range The Fox Squirrel's natural range extends throughout
the eastern United States, excluding New England, north into
the southern prairie provinces of Canada, and west to the
Dakotas, Colorado, and Texas. Introduced populations also
exist in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
Habitat While very versatile in their habitat choices, fox
squirrels are most often found in forest patches of 400,000
square metres or less with an open understory. They thrive
best among trees such as oak, hickory, walnut and pine that
produce winter-storable foods like nuts. Western range
extensions in Great Plains regions such as Kansas are
associated with riverine corridors of cottonwood.
Size Fox Squirrels weigh around 3 pounds. Their length
from nose to tail is about 10 inches and the tail is about
equally long. There is no sexual dimorphism in size or
appearance. Individuals tend to be smaller in the west.
Colors In most areas the animals are brown-grey to
brown-yellow, while in eastern regions such as the
Appalachians there are more strikingly-patterned dark brown
and black squirrels with white bands on the face and tail. In
the south can be found isolated communities with uniform
|This furry little guy started making infrequent visits around my birding area in December '05.
By springtime 2006, he was a regular visitor to the area.
|He is much larger than the Red Squirrels that normally frequent the birding
area. An impressive 2 foot stretch from nose to tip of tail!
Because of his size and agility, he
became a bit destructive to the bird
feeders, so I hung a basket on the
tree to feed him peanuts. I've named
|In June 2006, Bruno had began bringing along a female friend,
who I began calling Bruno's Girl, or B.G.
|And she figured out the basket routine in no time.
Over the course of
the summer, B.G.
became very social
and friendly toward
curiosity over my
climbing down ever
closer to me as I'd
toss peanuts into
October 2, 2006 A near life-size picture of B.G.
She now beats me to the basket and actually
took a peanut from my hand today.
Colorwise, they all look the same on the Great Plains, but in other parts of its
range the Fox Squirrel has some distinct variations. A dark-headed and
grey-backed version lives in the southeastern part of its range. A silvery-gray
version may be found in the eastern part of its range.
Diet Fox Squirrels depend primarily on tree seeds for food, but they are
generalist eaters and will also consume buds and fruits, cultivated grain, insects,
birds' eggs, and small lizards. Cannibalism has been reported, but should be
considered very rare. In their regular diet of nuts, fox squirrels are classic
scatter-hoarders that bury caches of nuts in dispersed locations, some of which
are inevitably left unretrieved to germinate.
Nesting Fox Squirrels are strictly diurnal, non-territorial, and spend more of
their time on the ground than most other tree squirrels. They are still, however,
agile climbers. They construct two types of homes, depending on the
season--summer dreys are often little more than platforms of sticks high in the
branches of trees, while winter dens are usually hollowed out of tree trunks by a
succession of occupants over as many as 30 years. Cohabitation of these dens
is not uncommon, particularly among breeding pairs.
Breeding There are two breeding seasons, one peaking in December and
the other in June. The young are blind, without fur and helpless at birth. They
become independent at about three months and maturity is reached after one
year. Their maximum life expectancy is 12.6 years for females and 8.6 years for
males. Humans, hawks, snakes and bobcats prey on the squirrels.
Fox Squirrels are also known for being living fossils, skeletally very similar to
remains of the oldest-known squirrel, Protosciurus, from the late Oligocene and
early Miocene epochs.
The Fox Squirrel in Idaho
Excerpt from the Journal of Mammalogy, Vol.
22, No. 1 (Feb., 1941), pp. 86
The occurrence of the fox squirrel in Idaho
should be reported as an addition to W.B.
Davis' lists in "The Recent Mammals of Idaho
Two specimens from Boise, collected by L.E.
Hicks on July 16, 1939, and now at the Ohio
Cooperative Research Unit, Columbus, Ohio,
were determined as "intermediate between
Seiiurus niger rufwentris and 8. n neglectus,
nearer the former" by the late A.H. Howell, of the
Fish and Wildlife Service. (Letter to L.E. Hicks,
September 12, 1939)
Undoubtedly the fox squirrels have been
transplanted to this State. It has not been
possible to ascertain accurately the date of this
planting, though it is certain that some squirrels
from the Middle West were released in Boise in
1917 and the planting was considered a
The effective establishment of the species must
have been after that year. Six animals were
trapped in Boise in 1936 and sent to Lewiston,
Idaho, where the species has become
Bruno loves his
October 3. 2006 Update:
While Bruno and B.G.
ate peanuts in the pine
tree above me, I spotted
a third squirrel
scrambling around the
apple tree. Oh swell.
They have friends and
relatives. I wonder if
peanuts can be grown in
Idaho. I may need a crop
Over the years,
become quite a
large number of
Fox Squirrels that
come to the
I've seen up to six
at a time.
And, in early
2009, this female,
with a missing
front paw began
I've named her
have watched her
Though from a
birth defect or an
accident, the lack
of a front paw
doesn't seem to
abilities to run,
climb and eat.
With only an occasional fumble or drop, she is able to shell peanuts by using the
stump to hold the peanut steady while grasping it with her left front paw.