Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)
- The fox squirrel is a large tree squirrel, about 21 inches long and 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. It has gray and black fur on its back and orange-colored fur on its belly. The tail color is cinnamon mixed with black. The feet are cinnamon. Fox squirrels got their name from their gray and red fur coat that resemble that of a gray fox.
- Life History
- Fox squirrels are large tree squirrels. Due to their ability to adapt to a wide range of forest habitats they are Texas' most common squirrel. Their greatest numbers occur in open upland forest with a mixture of oak and nut trees. Fox squirrels are an important game animal but their fondness for corn and pecans often cause them to be considered pests by farmers.
Squirrels are usually active early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Fox squirrels nest in holes in trees or build leaf and twig nests. They eat acorns and other nuts, buds, fruit, fungi, insects, amphibians and the inner bark of trees. Squirrels bury nuts for winter food and relocate the nuts by smell. Squirrels find only a portion of the nuts they bury and are important in planting many species of nut trees. A single squirrel can bury several thousand pecans over the course of 3 months.
Squirrels' long bushy tails are used for a variety of purposes. They can be wrapped around a squirrels face to keep them warm, used as an aid in balancing when they run along tree limbs, or spread and used as a parachute if the squirrel should fall. With a little practice, watching a squirrel's tail movements gives you a clue to their mood. Quick jerks of the tail signal that they are nervous or upset.
Fox squirrels usually have 2 breeding seasons and litters a year. Breeding season peaks in January and February and again in May and June. The young, usually 3 - 4 to a litter, are born naked, blind and helpless. Just three months later, however, they are able to survive on their own. Squirrels can live up to 15 years.
- Fox squirrels prefer upland hardwood forests containing nut producing trees.
- They're found in the forests and along the rivers and streams in the eastern two-thirds of Texas and the eastern half of the United States.
- Fox squirrels are an important game animal in many states including Texas. Proper forest management techniques can help squirrel populations. These include leaving older nut producing trees that are important for food and den sites. Corridors of trees between unlogged hardwood forests allow squirrels safe pathways to food and mates.