Eastern Fox Squirrel

Sciurus niger

Description:  A large tree squirrel with a characteristically long, bushy tail.  Eastern Fox Squirrels vary greatly in color, but usually have gray and black (sometimes all black) hair on their backs with an orange-colored belly (similar to a Gray Fox).

The orange color may extend to the feet, cheeks, around the ears, and to the edges of their tail.  The face has a square-looking profile and usually has white on the nose.

Males and females are similar in coloration. Young ones have a deeper reddish-orange belly color.

Length: 19 - 29 inches
Tail: 7 - 14 inches
Ear: 0.8 - 1.3 inches
Weight: 1 - 3 pounds

Similar Species: Eastern Gray Squirrel is smaller in size, white underneath, more grayish on the back, thinner in facial profile, and has a tail with white edges.

Habitat: Mostly found in mature hardwood forests, but prefers oak/hickory forests and commonly found along upland ridges.

Diet:  Will eat a variety of foods, but mainly nuts of hickory, oak, walnut, elm, mulberry, and pecan trees. Also, field corn is an important part of their diet if available.

Breeding information:  Males chase each other in territorial disputes and males chase females during courtship.  Mating usually takes place twice a year, during mid-winter and summer.

Females are pregnant 44-45 days, which means most litters are born in February or March, and July or August.

Litters may be as large as 8 young, but most average 2-3. Young are born hairless with closed eyes and ears but have well-developed claws.

The female takes care of the young until they are weaned at 8 weeks of age.

Status in Tennessee:  The Eastern Fox Squirrel is common in suitable habitat across the state, and is not a species of conservation concern.

Fun Facts:

•The bones of the Eastern Fox Squirrel are pink, while the bones of the similar Eastern Gray Squirrel are white.

•Rapid jerks of the tail signal that they are nervous or upset.

Best places to see in Tennessee:  This tree squirrel is found state-wide and is a popular game species.  Mature oak/hickory forests.

For more information:


Schwartz, C.W. and E.R. Schwartz. 2001.

The Wild Mammals of Missouri, 2nd Edition.

University of Missouri Press and Missouri Department of Conservation, Columbia, MO.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation