Deer in Spring Landscape

Eastern Fox Squirrel
(Sciurus niger)

Eastern Fox SquirrelDescription and Range:

The Eastern fox squirrel is 17 -28 inches inches in length and weigh between 1 and 2 pounds. Interestingly enough, their tails make up for over half of their overall length! Fox squirrels spend more time on the ground than other squirrel species and their larger body size is well adapted for this habit. In the northeastern part of its range, fox squirrels have a grayish upper body with yellowish undersides. The Delmarva fox squirrel is a rare species of the eastern fox squirrel.

Fox squirrels are found throughout eastern and central United States, south into northern Mexico, and north into Canada. Eastern fox squirrels most heavily inhabit areas which contain dense nut and fruit trees.

Habitat:

The eastern fox squirrel can be found in a diverse array of deciduous and mixed forests. It is commonly found throughout the piedmont and western regions of Maryland. Like other squirrels, they nest in tree cavities or build nests out of leaves in the tree tops. Eastern fox squirrels often build their nests in or near white oak trees, American beech trees, and hickory trees.

Diet:

The diet of an eastern fox squirrel consists of a variety of nuts, acorns, seeds, fungi, bird eggs, and cambium beneath the bark of small branches of trees. They will bury nuts and acorns, but many are never retrieved.

Reproduction:

Eastern fox squirrels can mate during any time of the year. Typically, they breed in December and have 1-2 litters of young per year. Forty-five days after mating, the female gives birth to a litter of 2-4 young, usually in a nest inside a hollow tree. The young, also known as pups, are born without fur and are blind. The pup’s eyes open when they are 5 weeks old and begin to climb throughout the tree when they are 7-8 weeks old. Young fox squirrels will venture down to the ground at 10 weeks old and become independent around 3 months old.

Sounds:

Fox squirrels will make a series of barks or chatters, similar to those of an Eastern grey squirrel, when alarmed. They also make loud chewing sounds when feeding and a series of whines or screams during courtship.

Behavior:

The eastern fox squirrel is mostly a solitary animal, although it will share feeding areas with other squirrels. Fox squirrels are strictly diurnal and non-territorial. Although fox squirrels spend much of their time on the ground, they are agile climbers, impressive jumpers, and can easily span fifteen feet with horizontal leaps.

Management:

The eastern fox squirrel is managed as a small game animal in Maryland, there is an annual hunting season that has established regulations and bag limits. When populations are allowed to increase uncontrollably higher numbers of starvation and disease exist. Hunting is an effective way of managing population levels and keeping them at a healthy sustainable level. To find out more about eastern fox squirrel management, please visit the Squirrels in Maryland page.

Did you know?

The bones of the eastern fox squirrel are pink, while the bones of the similar eastern gray squirrel are white. Also, when eastern fox squirrels are nervous or upset, they will rapidly jerk their tail.