About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Frisky" Fox Squirrels

I’ve created a situation here. I love, I love, I love my squirrels! I like how they dance around the yard and are so entertaining. Don’t get me wrong I love my birds but I’ve got these big brown squirrels trained to come up to the back door during breakfast and knock on the window for food. Now I’m a little worried because a couple squirrels seem to be getting fat. Should I cut down on the food? Tammy, MI

I don’t think you have to worry. The fat ones are probably just eating for 3 or 4. The Eastern Fox Squirrel Sciurus niger can mate any time but generally begin in January and February and again in May and June. Gestation lasts 44 days and an average litter size is 2-3 naked babies weighing between 13-18 g. Females can have several mates, and the males will compete with each other or “dance” to determine who is dominant.

Fox squirrels are found throughout the eastern and central United States, south into northern Mexico, and north into Canada. It is the largest tree squirrel in Michigan at 10-15 inches in length with tan underparts and cinnamon colored upperparts.

They usually nest in a tree hollow or a leaf nest in the crotch of a tree. You can also buy or build a squirrel nest box. The female takes care of the young with no help from the males. They develop rather slowly. Their eyes don’t even open until the fifth week. At 7 weeks they begin to climb about the nest tree and then venture onto the ground at about 10 weeks. At 3 months they begin to lead a more or less independent existence. Sexual maturity is reached at age of 10 months. Females can produce 2 litters in a year, although 1 is the norm.

Young fox squirrels disperse away from their mothers range in the fall of their first year. Male fox squirrels venture farther and may die more as a result. In captivity Fox Squirrels have had a recorded lifespan of 8-18 years. However in nature the average lifespan is 7 months due to predators and human interaction (cars, hunters…).

The eastern fox squirrel is a solitary animal, although it will share a feeding area with other squirrels. And even if you didn’t feed them they would survive on a variety of plants, fruits, nuts, berries and bugs. So enjoy away!

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