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.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why they are called Fox Squirrels

Eastern Fox Squirrel Sciurus niger

Because their coat is typically reddish brown with a lighter belly, similar to the red fox, they were called fox squirrel. Their Latin name Sciurus niger means shadow-tailed dark.

Description
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. Its long bushy tail can cover its head in bad weather.

General
Females can have several mates, and the males will compete with each other to determine who is dominant. Fox squirrels 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.

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…).
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Behavior
The eastern fox squirrel is a solitary animal, although it will share a feeding area with other squirrels. It spends most of the day eating and gathering and storing food. Squirrels eat acorns, hickory, walnut, beech, mulberry, Hawthorne and birdseeds. It also eats green shoots and buds, fruits, berries, corn, insects, moths, and beetles. Nuts are stored for use in the winter. The eastern fox squirrel locates its stashes using its keen sense of smell. It usually nests in a tree hollow. If it can't find one it will build a leaf nest in the a crotch of a tree or you can buy or build a squirrel nest box.  

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