Fox Squirrel, Sciurus niger

In Louisiana, the mention of a squirrel would elicit conversations about how this rodent should be cooked. I personally prefer to adore ’em–not eat ’em. Today, we can learn about the fox squirrel. Recipes can be found elsewhere. 😉

“I see you!”

This creature’s bushy, red tail tells us why it might be called a fox squirrel. These plump critters are slower-moving than their kin, the cat squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), so it’s easier to get a good look at them (and see how cute they are). Some “foxes” are melanistic, that means their fur is black. That helps support it’s name S. niger (meaning “black”). Other colorful fox facts: they have pink bones! I found this out from Kelby Ouchley’s book Bayou-Diversity: Nature and People in the Louisiana Bayou Country–an excellent source of info about our area and its creatures–and entertaining too.

They pretend to hide their nuts to trick other squirrels, says Squirrel Gazer‘s blog. And they’ll stuff leaves and sticks and stuff in the hole, acting like it’s a nut. Those cunning fiends!

Lurkin’ and posin’

They warn other squirrels and forest creatures that an enemy is near with alarm calls. Enemies like owls, snakes, hawks or people. We’ve often heard them “hollerin'” up there in the trees…at us. We think it sounds like “Fraaaannnkkk!”.

If you should, by chance, meet a bunch of squirrels hanging out together, you would refer to them as a “scurry of squirrels”. You would note that they probably have “love” on their minds. Animal Diversity explains that other than gathering to plan future squirrels, to put it politely, they are otherwise not social animals.

As we learned in our Mammals workshop with LMN-NE (our blog has more info), foxes are called “stump-eared squirrels” and “chuckleheads”. I wonder what it did to get such a name?! We also learned that foxes have one less tooth and are typically found in areas where “cats” aren’t, and vice versa.

They’re helpful in the forest by planting nuts then forgetting about them. Later, young trees emerge. And maybe they will then be reminded where that nut was.

Fox squirrels: helpful, adorable, cunning and [apparently] delicious!

January 21st is Squirrel Appreciation Day. Mark your calendar.

A young’un peering at me from its den.