Monday, November 22, 2010
Now this is a darn good looking squirrel. I had the good fortune to have one of these orange-colored beauties race right across my path the other day, and then offer himself up for photo ops.
Fox Squirrels are in acorn heaven this fall. With the massive mast crop, they are racing hither and yon, gorging themselves on nuts and fattening to elephantine proportions. They're big to start with. A whopper can easily tip the scales to a kilo! That's right - over two pounds!
Sometimes dubbed "stump-eared squirrels", Fox Squirrels are the largest of the tree squirrels in North America and dwarf our other, somewhat similar species, the Eastern Gray Squirrel, S. carolinensis, of which a large one might weigh a bit more than half of what a fox does.
Fox Squirrels prefer open landscapes with scattered trees and woodlots, while the Grays favor denser more contiguous woodlands. They've undoubtedly become far more common in Ohio following settlement of the state, and the subsequent clearing of the formerly unbroken and expansive eastern deciduous forest.
This particular unit was busily running about, seizing red oak acorns that had fallen. Those nuts that he didn't gobble on the spot would be likely be transported to a stache somewhere and concealed. These frenetic beasts forget where they've hidden many of the nuts, thus aiding in tree dispersal.
Perhaps the most spectacular feature of an Eastern Fox Squirrel is the tail. A magnificent appendage, it uses the proportionately massive, brushlike tail to signal its moods, much like a Norwegian Forest Cat does. In the pin-the-tail-on-the donkey shot above, the squirrel is seemingly happily pawing a nut from the grass and preparing for a luxurious treat.
I snapped this image as another, more Alpha squirrel quickly approached, and our squirrel is starting to express displeasure by rapidly flicking its tail, like a flag snapping in a hurricane. Seconds later the interloper was hot on this one's heels, resulting in a mad Keystone Kops style high speed chase throughout the park.
Even though the purpose of this trip was birds, I'll always take pause to admire this most handsome of squirrels, and chuckle at their wacky antics.