The elusive fox squirrel is considered a trophy among some hunters.
Many squirrel hunters consider Alabama’s fox squirrels a trophy because of its unique coloration and elusive tendencies. In fact, many hunters claim fox squirrels can be as difficult to hunt as whitetails.
The largest of Alabama’s three squirrel species (the other two being the grey squirrel and flying squirrel), the fox squirrel weighs approximately 1.5 to 2 pounds, but larger individuals can reach three pounds.
According to information provided by Alabama’s Department of Conservation, the fox squirrel’s color varies widely, but in Alabama, it’s often rusty yellow with gray along the back and neck. The belly is mostly a pale yellow to orange and the feet and nose are a yellowish-brown to rusty orange. In some areas of the state, this species can be black or silver. No matter the body color, a fox squirrel’s face almost always displays a black mask around the eyes and nose. Often, the tips of the nose and ears are white. Many assume fox squirrels were named for their rusty coloration, but others believe they were most likely named for their fox-like lope as they run along the ground.
Where are they Located?
Fox squirrels can be found throughout North America, including Alabama, although the populations are scattered and densities are most often low.
“Fox squirrels can often be found in high, dry ridges and areas of residual pine forest.”
This species of squirrel thrives in a variety of habitats. In Alabama, they inhabit virtually every type of terrains, such as bottomland hardwoods, the shores of bayous, cypress swamps, pine and hardwood forests and upland sandhill habitat dominated by mature pines and numerous scrub-oak species.
Alabama’s fox squirrels can often be found in high, dry ridges and areas of residual pine forest. Research shows that while fox squirrels do spend much of their time in mature pine stands, hardwood habitats adjacent to or within these areas tend to be more heavily used than would be expected, based on their availability.
About Alabama’s Fox Squirrels
Fox squirrels have a large diet, which includes acorns, nuts, seeds, fleshy fruits, buds, flowers, twigs, bird eggs, insects, tubers, roots, and fungi. They feed heavily on pine seeds during the late summer and hard mast in the fall and winter months, but they are always opportunistic feeders.
“Unlike grey squirrels, fox squirrels, especially the females, often avoid or ignore each other.”
Alabama’s fox squirrels give birth to litters of two to five young. The first litter is often born between late January and March. Second litters are usually produced in July and August. Gestation lasts approximately 44 days. Yearling females breed when they’re approximately 10 months old and generally skip a breeding period before producing a second litter. Older females usually breed twice each year.
In the summer, red squirrels construct nests of leaves in tree branches. In the winter, they often use tree cavities to rear their young.
Solitary animals, fox squirrels are rarely found in groups except during breeding chases and in areas with a concentrated food supply. Unlike grey squirrels, fox squirrels, especially the females, often avoid or ignore each other. When circumstances do bring them together, they quickly establish dominance.
Male fox squirrel home ranges are larger than the females’ home ranges and overlap more broadly with those of other individuals. During the breeding season, the males range widely in search of mates. Home ranges of females usually overlap relatively little with those of other females. Average home ranges in south Alabama have been found to be 68 acres (94 acres for males, 29 acres for females).
Hunting the Fox Squirrel
According to those who hunt fox squirrels, the species is adept at hiding. When danger approaches, a fox squirrel will typically climb higher up the tree and assume a motionless position. Because of their coloration, this hiding tactic makes spotting them almost impossible. They will also circle the top of a tree while the hunter circles the base in an effort to remain out of sight.
Alabama’s fox squirrels tend to become active later in the morning than grey squirrels. They retire earlier in the evening as well. Locating a fox squirrel can be extremely difficult, so hunters pursuing these elusive creatures must have patience. A little luck doesn’t hurt, either.
For Alabama’s squirrel hunting season and bag limits, visit http://www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/season-limits/.