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Delmarva Fox Squirrel

Sciurus niger cinereus

The Delmarva fox squirrel has a gray body and a full, fluffy tail that can grow to 15 inches long. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
The Delmarva fox squirrel has a gray body and a full, fluffy tail that can grow to 15 inches long. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

The Delmarva fox squirrel is a large, gray squirrel that lives in quiet forests on the Delmarva Peninsula. It is an endangered species.

Appearance:

  • Steel or whitish gray body
  • White belly
  • Full, fluffy tail with black edgings
  • Tail can grow to 15 inches long
  • Short, thick, rounded ears
  • Can grow to 30 inches long and weigh up to 3 pounds

Habitat:

  • Prefers quiet wooded areas, especially mature loblolly pine and hardwood forests with an open understory
  • Also found in woodlots near farm fields and groves of trees near water
  • Spends a considerable amount of time on the ground, rather than in trees like the common gray squirrel

Range:

  • Found only in small isolated populations on the Delmarva Peninsula, mostly in Kent, Dorchester, Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties in Maryland
  • Biologists have moved some squirrels to other parts of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to help develop populations there
  • Historic range extended as far north as southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania

Feeding:

  • Feeds on nuts, seeds and acorns from gum, oak, pine, maple, walnut and hickory trees
  • Will also eat buds, flowers, fruit, fungi, insects and mature green pine cones

Predators:

  • Humans are major predators that have caused habitat loss through development and logging
  • Red foxes, minks, weasels, raptors, and unleashed dogs and cats are natural predators
  • Raccoons, opossums and rat snakes may prey on young squirrels

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Mates in late winter and early spring
  • Usually makes a den in a tree hollow but will also nest on a tree crotch, in tangles of vines on tree trunks or at the end of large tree branches
  • About 44 days later (usually in February-April) the female gives birth to a litter of 1-6 young
  • The female cares for her young until they are weaned
  • Reaches sexual maturity after one year
  • Can live to 6 years old

Other Facts:

  • One of 10 recognized subspecies of fox squirrels, which are the largest tree squirrels in the western hemisphere
  • Listed as an endangered species in 1967 because of habitat loss due to development and timber harvesting
  • Easily distinguished from the common gray squirrel by its larger size, lighter color and shy, quiet behavior
  • Rather than jumping from tree to tree, Delmarva fox squirrels will descend down a tree and travel on the ground to the next tree

Sources and Additional Information:

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