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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 currently listed as an endangered species.

Appearance:

The Delmarva fox squirrel has a steel or whitish gray body and a white belly. It has short, thick, rounded ears. Its full, fluffy tail has black edgings and can grow to 15 inches long. The fox squirrel can grow to 30 inches in length 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:

The Delmarva fox squirrel feeds on nuts, seeds and acorns from gum, oak, pine, maple, walnut and hickory trees. It will also eat buds, flowers, fruit, fungi, insects and mature green pine cones.

Field Guide: Delmarva Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) from Chesapeake Bay Program on Vimeo.

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:

Mating occurs in late winter and early spring. The squirrel 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 to April) the female gives birth to a litter of 1 to 6 young. The female cares for her young until they are weaned. Young reach sexual maturity after one year. Delmarva fox squirrels can live to 6 years old.

Other Facts:

  • The Delmarva fox squirrel is one of ten recognized subspecies of fox squirrels, which are the largest tree squirrels in the western hemisphere.
  • In 1967, these squirrels were listed as an endangered species because of habitat loss due to development and timber harvesting. However, after a rigorous recovery plan and range expansion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering de-listing the squirrels.
  • They can easily be distinguished from the common gray squirrel by their 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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