Biodiversity Spotlight: August 2021

Contributed by: Molly Phillips 

Boing! Photo: Allan Hack

Fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) are medium-sized tree squirrels with a long, full tail. They exhibit a variety of coat colors and patterns from pale grey to black though the most common color is reddish-brown (seen above). They are found in a diversity of deciduous and mixed-forest habitats and depend on trees for both food and safety. Fox squirrels are native to eastern and central North America. They have also been introduced to the western parts of both the USA and Canada. In the east, some populations are in decline like the southern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger niger). The main threat to the southern fox squirrel population is the destruction of longleaf pine forests. This species also has an increased chance of getting hit by a vehicle due to their typically slow gait. In places in the west where fox squirrels have been introduced, populations have extablished quickly and the impact on local native squirrel species is of conservation concern.

Southern Fox Squirrel Photo: FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

Visit the iDigBio Portal to see some of the coat color diversity in the southern fox squirrel from specimens housed at Tall Timbers Research Station. If you live in Southern California, you can help scientists from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County better understand the distribution of eastern fox squirrels as an introduced species.