Saturday, December 25, 2010

First New Wildlife

New birds, yes, I expected those. But new wildlife? Eh - not so much. Sure, there are reports of badgers in the area, but I suspect they will be my Michigan equivalent of the moose - my Moby Dick.

So, imagine my surprise to learn that there are new squirrels to meet and learn about! I mean...SQUIRRELS!

I submit for your consideration new squirrel number one: the fox squirrel.

This very handsome and rather chubby rodent is ubiquitous around these parts. For someone used to seeing red squirrels (we have them, too), the fox squirrel is a veritable giant. I'd even be willing to say that it puts grey squirrels to shame size-wise (although I have seen some very portly greys in my days, too). In fact, the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) is listed as the largest tree squirrel native to North America. I believe it.

Besides its impressive size, what stands out about this robust animal (it can exceed two pounds) is its orange underpinnings. Just take a look at that brilliant belly!

And that impressive tail!

Able to leap small canyons in a single bound (15 feet horizontally), these rodents are zippy companions to my little neighborhood here. They clamber up trees and utility poles with equal ease, and trot along utility cables without batting an eye - something that any self-respecting squirrel should be able to do.

And even though several raptors and other predators happily add fox squirrels to their menu options, these mammals can live impressively long lives. I read that females can hang in there for over twelve years, while most males are lucky to see eight (must be all that territorial fighting takes its toll).

The other new squirrel I can't wait to see is the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. I'll have to wait until spring, however, for these fellows are tucked away below ground for the winter.


  1. Now, THAT is an impressive squirrel! Pretty, too, with that all that chestnut coloring.

  2. Oh my, this does bring back memories of my Michigan youth, where Fox Squirrels and the striped ground squirrels (we called them gophers to distinguish them from chipmunks) were ubiquitous. Have fun watching their antics.