I love fox squirrels. I think that I like the fox squirrel because in many ways it reminds me of the gray fox
that I fed for five years, only in a smaller form. Everything I know about the fox squirrel comes from
personal observation; that is, watching them day after day.
|The scientific name for the fox squirrel is Sciurus Niger. Sciurus is the Greek word
for shade tail. Niger is from the Latin for black. I have read that it has been
suggested that the fox squirrel was first given the Sciurus Niger name because the
first one to be identified was a black one.
|I think that the term Niger could well come from the black individual. However, I think it could just as easily
could well come from the black individual. However, I think it could just as easily come from the black cap
that occurs on the head of some of the squirrels. On some, this black extends down its back. Also, some
of the fox squirrels have a black head. I suggest this since the Sciurus refers to its tail.
The tail of the fox squirrel is interesting and is one of its most dominant features.
more that I have observed. Also, when it uses its tail I do not always know what it means. I suggest their tails
are used as follows.
1. For balance while jumping, running through trees, and sitting on tree limbs.
2. For posturing. When another fox squirrel approaches,
the squirrel being approached will stand tall and flare
its tail to indicate that this is mine.
3. An indication of nervousness. When I am walking
around among then, they will often spread their tails as
if they think it makes them invisible
4. As a cover for itself. When the sun is hot it often uses its tail as a shade. When it is very cold or when
they are out in the rain, they will cover themselves with their tail, occasionally jumping up into the air, shaking
their body with water spray going everywhere.
5.As a warning. When another fox squirrel approaches it often flares its tail and flicks its tail in a rapid up and
down flicking motion.
6. For communication.
I read someplace that one of the names for the fox squirrel is Raccoon Tail. I named this one
Raccoon Tail long before I knew that the fox squirrel was called that same name by some people.
Other than the head and the tail,
the stomach shows their
difference in color and adds to
The following pictures form the gallery of characters that make this site possible.
The next two fox
squirrels appeared a
year or so ago and are
not a part of the gallery
of squirrels that I am
This is the habitat in
which they live. It is
primarily long leaf yellow
pine with a few oaks.
|I grew up knowing about fox squirrels. When I was young there were fox squirrels everywhere. To me
they were just squirrels. It wasn't until the mid 1990's that I began to notice them.
I was in the woods, cutting some brush when I heard 'whish, whish," which continued for a few minutes
and then there was silence. After a few minutes I heard it again. After this had happened several times I
decided to see if I could find out what was making the noise. I finally discovered a fox squirrel on the side
of a cypress tree. She was stripping the soft bark off of the tree until she had a number of pieces in her
mouth. I watched her as she then climbed up the tree, jumped from one tree to another until she finally
arrived at a nest high up in a long leaf pine tree. She appeared to be lining the nest with the soft bark of
the cypress tree. I don't know how many trips she made as she repeated the process as I watched her. It
surprised me how much bark from the cypress tree she could carry in her mouth. Later that year I had a
second experience with a fox squirrel. It was a female. She appeared to be old because of the look of
her fur. It looked molted, which I have since learned fox squirrels do, so this could be the reason she the
west side, then cross the canal, then go down the west side of my house to a cypress tree. She would
strip bark from it and carry it back to her nest. She repeated this trip over and over. She didn't seem to
see anything around her as she went about her business. I decided to see what she would do if I was in
her way. When she went by me, headed for the cypress tree, she stopped, stood tall on her hind legs,
gave me the once over, then went on about her business. When she returned, I stood blocking her way.
She simply ran through my legs and went on toward her nest. She was around for several years.
The next time I saw fox squirrels around the house was several years later. I fed the birds on my back
driveway. I would go to my back door and watch the birds. One day, after lunch, I walked to the back
door to see what birds were feeding. Sitting on the hood of my truck was a mother fox squirrel (black
head, gray body, gray tail) and a half grown fox squirrel (black). Over the next few years I would see a
fox squirrel, generally one at a time. One of them was about the color of mink. I called the color Then
one day in 2007 I looked out of my den window to see a black fox squirrel playing in the yard. I grabbed
my camera and ran outside to take a picture, if possible. To my surprise, it did not run. In fact, it seemed
so attracted to me that I could not get far enough away from it to take a good picture. Like a pet, she
would not get out from under my feet. She was around several days and then she disappeared. Later in
2007 I saw a black head, brown body fox squirrel in the edge of the woods.
Beginning in the Spring of 2008 there were several fox squirrels in my yard, so I decided to feed them.
Now I have eight that make their appearance on an almost daily basis. I take pictures and enjoy them.
They are wild but they accept my presence among them. What follows are my observations.
Time of Activity.
I have read that the fox squirrel is most active early in the morning and in the late afternoon. I have a
female that generally shows up to eat early in the day. She is almost always around by 7:30 or 8:00 each
morning. Shortly after she shows up there are several others that show up.
I can see them in the trees scampering about from limb to limb and from tree to tree. I also see them
bouncing around on the ground. It is generally 9:30 or 10:00 o'clock before most of them come to eat.
I believe that playing and searching for food go hand in hand. I see them running, climbing and jumping
when suddenly they will stop and eat something they have found. They play and eat all day, but generally
by four o'clock I will see them only occasionally.
I also notice that they will often sit or lie on a limb, in the same spot, for an hour or more at the time.
At times there are three or four squirrels sitting around in the trees, often several in one tree. There are nests
all around in the edge of the woods, but it seems to me as I watch them later in the day that they go deeper in
Solitary or Not.
I haven't decided if I think the fox squirrel is a solitary animal or not. When I see
them in the tree, there is generally only one fox squirrel in the tree. Also, when I
see them on the ground, they are either playing alone of searching for food.
Just when I begin to think that they are a solitary animal, I will see two or three of
them gathered in one spot just laying around or two of them running around
chasing the other one. I see this same behavior on the ground.
I feed the squirrels every day. If there are two or three eating at one
time,they seem to tolerate each other though, often, they will flare their tail.
It seems to me that they are saying, "Keep your distance." If one of the
squirrels gets too close, the other will chase it off. If one gets too close to
the one eating, it will squeal and I have even seen one jumping on the back
of the other. If one of them is eating and another one approaches, it does
so with caution, a few steps at a time. Often, when one approaches another
who is eating, it will simply go over to another place.
At times, when there are as many as six of the fox squirrels trying to eat at the same time, it is almost mass
confusion. They are so busy chasing each other that it seems that none of them really get a chance to eat,
except a bite here and there as they pass the food source.
Generally, if the fox squirrels are just moving around and happen to meet another, they approach with caution,
giving one another sufficient space. As they do, most of the time they spread their tail, but also flick it up and
down in rapid movement. It makes me think one is saying to the other, "Keep your distance."
There are nests in the trees in the edge of the woods. I see squirrels going into them, but only one per nest. I
have seen a second one attempt to go into an occupied nest only to be run off.
If the black fox squirrel comes to eat and there is another squirrel around, the
black one is very cautions. It seems to be very timid. If there is more than one
other fox squirrel around when the black fox squirrel comes up, one of the
other fox squirrels will chase the black one away, often back into the woods.
They do not behave in that way toward any of the others.
I guess if I have one observation it is that when there are several of the fox
squirrels together, they give each other proper distance.
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