Animals Nature

Fox Squirrel

fox squirrel eating acorn

Fox squirrels are not foxes.  They are squirrels and have several additional names.  The Bryant’s fox squirrel and the eastern fox squirrel.  They have two additional names.  The species is often mistaken for the eastern gray squirrel or the American red squirrel that they share a habitat with.  The Delmarva fox squirrel (S. n. cinereus) is the only recognized subspecies. 

Their natural range runs through the eastern United States and the southern provinces of Canada.  They are found in Texas, Colorado, North Dakota and South Dakota.  Fox squirrels are absent in New York, New Jersey, New England and Pennsylvania.  Some stragglers still gallop about.  The animals have been introduced to Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, New Mexico, California, British Columbia and Ontario.  They thrive in forests.  Pecan, pine, walnut, hickory and oak trees are their favorites.  Western squirrels in the Great Plains stick to riverside corridors of cottonwoods.

An open forest with minimal understory vegetation is preferred.  Fox squirrels shy away from dense undergrowth and scrub.  Small groups of large trees laid across agricultural land is ideal.  The spacing and size of oaks and pines are the model layout.  The actual species of the trees varies.  The design is similar.  Some squirrels forage among the forest edge.  Others stray hundreds of feet from the treescape.  Everyone is capable of leaping fifteen horizontal feet and falling twenty vertically.

Delmarva fox squirrel
Delmarva fox squirrel – Photo Credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region

Where do fox squirrels live?

Shelters are fashioned inside tree cavities or leaf nests.  Tree dens are favored during the winter and for raising young.  Fox squirrels build nests during the summer months between the branches of deciduous trees.  The dwellings are used all year and sit thirty feet above the ground.  Dens are one foot and half deep and six inches wide.  The squirrels are capable of creating their own cavity in hollow trees.  Natural gaps are preferred.  Crow nests and openings created by other birds are reused when available.

Diet is varied by habitat.  General calories are made up of insects, tree buds, bulbs, roots, eggs, pine nuts and fungi.  The mast of bluejack oak, post oak, live oak, blackjack oak, turkey oak and southern red oak is common food.  Corn, oats, wheat, soybeans, fruit and other agricultural crops are eaten.  Native Illinois fox squirrels consume hickory, pecans and black walnuts in the fall.  Elm buds and seeds are important in the spring.  The summertime brings corn and mulberries.  Osage orange, ash seeds, bark and berries are the wintertime favorites in Kansas.

Buckeyes, hazelnuts, acorns, corn and blackberries are the staple in Ohio.  Tomatoes, oranges, avocados and strawberries are eaten in California.  Eucalyptus seeds are consumed in the winter.  Texas natives prefer bluejack oak or southern red oak acorns.  Swamp chestnut oak nuts are eaten as a last resort.  Michigan locals feast on everything from plums and cherry pits to beechnuts and butternuts.

fox squirrel
Fox squirrel in the snow – Photo Credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie


Fox squirrels spend an unusual amount of time on the ground.  They are non-territorial and diurnal or active during the day.  The expert climbers will create caches of buried food for later consumption.  Acorns and other nuts high in fat are selected and shelled.  The hidden treats are valued for their high energy count and low probability of spoiling.  The squirrels have a deep vocabulary and are capable of making various sounds.  Chucking, clucking and distress cries ring through the forest in times of pressure.  Two opposing males will threaten each other by standing erect with their tail arched over their back.

The animals are solitary and antisocial creatures.  They meet between the months of December and January and June during the breeding seasons.  Two litters are produced a year.  Female squirrels reach sexual maturity by their tenth of eleventh month.  Their first litter arrives after their first birthday.  Gestation last forty-five days.  Three babies are born on average.  The season and abundance of food can fluctuate the litter count. 

Tree dens serve as nurseries for the young.  Summer pups cool off in breathable nests.  The young are born blind, naked and dependent.  Their eyes open between four to five weeks.  Their ears open at six.  The infants are weaned for three to four months.  Some rely on their mother until their sixteenth week.  The juveniles leave during the fall months and return to spend their first winter as a family.

fox squirrel eating acorn
Acorn snack – Photo Credit: grendelkhan

Captive fox squirrels can live up to eighteen years old.  The majority die before adulthood in the wild.  A male’s life expectancy is under nine years in nature.  The girls can live up to thirteen.  The destruction of mature forests, extreme winter weather and over-hunting make matters worse.  Predators are opportunistic fox squirrel hunters.  Capture is difficult and inconsistent.  The young are vulnerable to climbing foes that include opossums, raccoons, pine and rat snakes.  Foxes, bobcats, lynx, owls, hawks and coyotes are capable of subduing adults.  Cougars and wolves are former foes that no longer share the same habitat.

Fox Squirrel Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae
Genus: Sciurus
squirrel rest
A prostrate fox squirrel – Photo Credit: Franco Folini

4 comments on “Fox Squirrel

  1. Great article.. beautiful animals.. thank you ❤️

  2. I like squirrels, but we have no squirrels in the town of Grand Junction Colorado where I live. We do have some in the mountains nearby.

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