Sciurus niger (Eastern Fox Squirrel)

Medium-sized gray rodent with a large bushy tail and a tan-orange underside (Midwest subspecies)

Length: Body: 20-24 in. Tail: 8-10 in.

Weight: 1.5-4 lbs.

Diet: oak, hickory, walnut, and beech seeds; shoots, buds, fungi, berries, insects

Range: locally common in much of central and eastern U.S. and far south-central Canada; absent in southeastern Canada and New England.

Mating: Mating occurs in early summer and winter, gestation period ~45 days, average litter of 2-3.

Life Expectancy: ~10 years in the wild, up to 18 years in captivity.

While the Gray Squirrel occupies both dense woodlands and suburbs, the Eastern Fox Squirrel is generally a shyer animal of open forest and mixed patches of prairie and oak savanna in rural areas.

Unlike many Gray Squirrels, which will avoid touching the ground at all by leaping from branch to branch, Fox Squirrels can sometimes be seen scampering across open spaces devoid of any trees.

They specialize in harvesting and spreading the nuts of savanna trees, like Bur Oaks. While the Arb may seem like ideal habitat for this species of squirrel, it can often be hard to find. One reason for this may be that southern Minnesota forests have become more favorable habitat for Gray and Red Squirrels. Invasive species, a loss of browsing herbivores, and fire suppression have led to forests with denser understories.

Look for a large, noticeably more orange-bellied squirrel in the walnut grove near the old Waterford Dam and in areas of savanna habitat with scattered trees. Most squirrels you see on campus and in populated areas will be Gray or Red.