Mexican Fox Squirrel, Sciurus nayaritensis
The Mexican fox squirrel (Sciurus nayaritensis) can be found throughout the Sierra Madre Occidental and as far south as Jalisco, Mexico. The northern range of this squirrel only includes the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. There are three subspecies of the Mexican fox squirrel, and they are commonly known as the Nayarit, Chiricahua fox squirrel, and the Apache.
These squirrels prefer a forested habitat, living at elevations if up to 8,900 feet, depending on the location. They inhabit forests that have been maintained by means of low-severity fires, and the largest populations can be found in areas close to a body of water near sycamore and cottonwood trees. Preferred habitat characteristics include an open forest floor and large trees.
The Mexican fox squirrel has greyish-brown fur on its back, while the underbelly is a brownish red to yellow color. The tail is dusky and dark and appears to be frosted with white. During the winter, the fur will change to a more reddish color, with the anus often surrounded by a ring of white. This squirrel has an average weight of twenty-five ounces.
Active during the day, or diurnal, the Mexican fox squirrel will spend much of its time foraging for food along the forest floor. It will eat many things including fungi, flowers, seeds, and occasionally insects. If available, walnuts and acorns are eaten, as well as many other tree seeds including seeds from pinecones, which it will extract by removing each scale. It has been known to “scatter-hoard” seeds, hiding them under loose top soil and leaves.
Although there has not been a lot of research done on the Mexican fox squirrel, due to low densities, it has been found that they will occasionally nest collectively. It will nest in trees, creating a ball shaped area lined with sticks and leaves. Females can produce one litter a year in late spring or summer, having one or two babies per litter. It is typically a silent squirrel, with the exception of barking noises it will use when spotted by prey, and it only calls once it is safe in the trees. Predators of this squirrel include cats, dogs, snakes, and procyonids. The Mexican fox squirrel has a status of least concern.
Image Caption: Chiricahua fox squirrel, Rustler Park, Chiricahua Mountains, Cochise County, Arizona, USA. Credit: Sdoumas/Wikipedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)