Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Native Species Profile - Fox Squirrel

Mid-Michigan is home to eight species of squirrels.

Three ground squirrels call the area home: the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel, Eastern Chipmunk, and Woodchuck (Groundhog).  Yes, the Woodchuck is a squirrel and despite its size it does climb trees. The Eastern Chipmunk also climbs trees on occasion.  The Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel is strictly a ground dweller.

The ranges of the Southern Flying Squirrel and Northern Flying Squirrel overlap in Mid-Michigan.  These species do not truly fly, but rather can glide from a higher position to a lower one using flaps of skin that stretch between their front and hind legs.  The flying squirrels are nocturnal and are rarely seen.

Finally there are three species of tree squirrels that can be found in Mid-Michigan.  The smallest is the Red or Pine Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus).  Next is the Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), which comes in several color variations.  Most black squirrels are a dark morph of the Gray Squirrel. 

The largest of the three species of tree squirrels is the Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger).

An Eastern Fox Squirrel in an ornamental crab apple tree.
Named after its reddish orange color that is similar to that of a Red Fox, the Fox Squirrel reaches a size of 10 to 15 inches long plus an 8 to 13 inch tail, for a total length of 18 to 28 inches.  They can weigh between 18 and 34 ounces as adults.

Like most rodents, the Fox Squirrel eats an omnivorous diet.  Their diet includes nuts, seeds, fruit, buds and other plant parts, mushrooms, tree sap,birds and bird eggs, mice and other small mammals, and insects.  It spends much of its time foraging on the ground.  Like other squirrels it caches food for later, burying individual nuts and seed in holes in the ground.  Many of these are not recovered and will sprout to become new trees.

Although all three species of tree squirrels can and do share habitats, each prefers a certain habitat type.  The Red Squirrel is able to utilize conifer forests better than the other two species.  The Gray Squirrel prefers mature forests with a variety of food sources.  The Fox Squirrel prefers open forests with mature nut bearing trees.  The Fox Squirrel is more adaptable in its habitat requirements and tolerates more open areas than the other two species.  It is likely to be seen foraging in open fields and is very common in urban and suburban areas.

Basic Information

Eastern Fox Squirrel
Sciurus niger

Habitat:  forests, agricultural areas, urban and suburban areas

Size:  18 to 28 inches long (including an 8 to 13 inch tail)

Diet:  nuts, seeds, fruit, corn, buds, flowers, mushrooms, inner tree bark, sap, birds, bird eggs, mice and other small mammals, insects

No comments:

Post a Comment