Monday, November 22, 2010

Fox Squirrel

Eastern Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger, Lorain County, Ohio.

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.


Tom Arbour said...

Fox squirrels are great- Even though I've seen them plenty of times, their size always impresses me. I watched one raid a blue-gray gnatcather nest once...wasn't the prettiest sign ever, but that is nature!


Elaine said...

We had one Fox Squirrel among several, and I mean several, Black and Gray Squirrels. The Black Squirrels are very aggressive. I am wondering if they have driven the beautiful Fox Squirrel away, or if something just happened to it.

Wren nests in... said...

Worked at Chincoteague NWR years ago; I've always liked squirrels, but those silver Delmarva Fox Squirrels were stunning. Yours are cute. ;o)

And yes, I agree: their sheer size is amazing. (Jim, did you get any photos that give size reference for your red-tailed beasties?)

Jim McCormac said...

Thanks for your comments. I guess the lichen shingling on the gnatcatcher nest didn't fool the squirrel!

Don't know what happened to your F-squirrel, Elaine, but hope you get another. As for aggressiveness, the biggest bullies of all are the little Red Squirrels. they are real firecrackers!

And it is a goal of mine to see the fabulous Delmarva Fox Squirrel someday, Wren! And nope, these photos are just of the squirrels; no frame of reference...

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I'm not sure what kind of squirrels we have here in southeast Nebraska. Someone has probably told me, but I'm pretty forgetful.

Our neighborhood has a number of squirrels. Some have lighter fur on their chests than others. They are quite the characters. They like to pose for photos sometimes, too. They like to hide their nuts and such in my pots, then dig out the flowers in the spring and summer. They also love to tease our dog. They know where her boundaries are.

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