Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Fox Squirrel

Sciurus niger


The fox squirrel is the largest of four squirrel species. This species has grizzled-black-brown-orange upper body parts, they can also be black with white lower body parts with white ears and nose. They have no sexual dimorphism (there is no difference between the appearance of male and female). This species can be a black color in the southeastern U.S. In winter they develop ear tufts.


Found throughout the North America, these squirrels are comfortable in a variety of tree species in deciduous and mixed forests but are easily adjusted to small woodlots in suburbs. Fox squirrels us trees to escape from predators and also to use as dens. Tree cavities hollowed by woodpeckers are commonly taken as winter dens, if there are no cavities, leaf nest are made (known as dreys). These dreys allow the fox squirrel to live without large mature trees. Leaf platforms (or cooling beds) are built in the summer for loafing.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

They rise and feed later than the other squirrels. Fox squirrels have a similar diet to other tree squirrels, white oak acorns, hickory nuts and beechnuts are preferred. Seeds and berries are also consumed. They are omnivorous, consuming plant and animal matter, insects, eggs and dead fish are sometimes consumed. Squirrels cache seeds and nuts in scattered places for the winter.


Fox squirrels generally breed in December and January and again in early summer but they can mate any time of the year. Even though females mate with several males, the males compete for who mates first, formed by a hierarchy system. About 44 days after mating, females produce 3 pups per litter, which are weaned by twelve weeks. Young can be born every month except December and January. Fox squirrels are able to breed within the first year of their life, females reaching sexual maturity after 8 months while males reach sexual maturity after 10 months.

Months and Times of Activity

Fox squirrels rise and feed later in the day than other squirrels and then are active throughout the rest of the day. Fox squirrels do not hibernate in the winter.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships  

o    Many of the acorns and nuts fox squirrels bury are never found and sprout into seedlings in the spring. Fox squirrels are important factors in tree seed dispersal.
o    Squirrels threaten one another by standing upright and flicking their tail above their back.
o    Fox squirrels have several sets of vibrissae (whiskers) above and below their eyes, on their chin and nose, and on their forearms; used to sense their environment.
o    In many areas eastern gray squirrel populations are larger than the fox squirrel populations. An old Hunter’s tale for this population difference explained that male gray squirrels sneak into the dens of male fox squirrels and castrate them so they could not reproduce. However, the explanation is false; the population difference is caused by a parasite. A species of parasitic botfly preys on squirrels (preferring fox squirrels), laying eggs in their groin, when the eggs hatch the larvae burrow into the skin and consume the squirrel’s testes or ovaries. These individuals are unable to reproduce from the damage by these parasites.
o    Children’s book with fox squirrel: Freddy Fox Squirrel by R.W. Eschmeyer


Fahey, B. 2001. "Sciurus niger" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at

"Fox Squirrel." Department of Natural Rescouces, 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.

Ianahk. "Invasion of the Squirrel Neuterers." Missouri's Fish, Forests and Wildlife. Missouri Department of Conservation, 23 Oct. 2009. Web. 05 Feb. 2013.