Smith’s Bush Squirrel, Paraxerus cepapi

Smith’s bush squirrel (Paraxerus cepapi) is native to many areas of Africa including Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, and Zambia, among other regions. Its other common names include the Yellow-footed Squirrel and the South African name of Tree Squirrel.

Smith’s bush squirrel is approximately 1.1 feet in length, including the tail, which can comprise up to half the body length. It is small, weighing only seven ounces. The fur color of this squirrel varies in location, except for the white underbelly fur. In arid regions, Smith’s bush squirrel is light grey, while in wetter regions it appears browner in color. Western squirrels have a patch of tannish yellow fur on the chest, while in the east the squirrels have a white patch of fur.

Smith’s bush squirrel is diurnal, and spends a large portion of its time in trees, although it will often forage on the ground for food. During the nighttime, the squirrels will gather in family groups to sleep. The diet of Smith’s bush squirrel consists mainly of plant materials, although it has been known to eat insects. It will use its forepaws to manipulate food when eating. This squirrel aids in tree growth as it scatter-hoards seeds beside grass clumps and tree trunks.

Smith’s bush squirrels will raise young together, and the entire family group will share the same scent in order to facilitate better grooming and territorial habits, which are both highly important to the social structure of the squirrels. Males tend to protect the nesting area more than females, although females will defend it if necessary. Young squirrels will reach maturity between six and nine months of age.

When familial groups of Smith’s bush squirrels defend their homes, they use a curious means of scaring off a predator known as mobbing. The entire group will emit a clicking noise and flick their tails, and this process grows in intensity. Bush squirrels that live alone, or in smaller groups, will make sure to keep a tree branch between itself and a predator, using wits to defend itself. These squirrels are very alert, but they can be surprised. When this happens, they will flee to the nearest tree and flatten against it, remaining motionless. The conservation status of Smith’s bush squirrel is of “Least Concern”.

Image Caption: Paraxerus cepapi, Hamerkop, Magaliesberg, South Africa. Credit: Androstachys/Wikipedia