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Utah Fox Squirrels

NHMU is studying Fox Squirrels, and we need your help!

A fox squirrel

The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger), a species native to the eastern US, has recently become established in Utah. First reported in 2011 along the Jordan River in Salt Lake City, this tree squirrel has been spreading throughout northern Utah. The arrival of fox squirrels offers an opportunity to study, first-hand, the ecology of an introduced species, and you can help! Our survey is open year-round. Click below to access the online survey form, and explore our data map.

Fox Squirrel Survey

Information you submit to our form will help NHMU scientists:

  • Explore the distribution of Fox Squirrels (where they are present, or not present)
  • Understand how are they interacting with their environment (e.g., What do they eat? When are they active? What species do they interact with?)

Squirrel Fest Success!

NHMU hosted the second annual Squirrel Fest December 6-12, 2021. This annual call for help observing neighborhood squirrels led to over 480 observations. We'll be exploring this data in the coming months, and will be back to share more soon. For now, here are some 2021 Squirrel Fest Highlights:

  • We had fun connecting with the people who joined our events at Liberty Park and the International Peace Gardens. Thank you for sharing your stories and insights with us!
  • New observations came in from Davis, Morgan, Utah and Weber counties (areas we are interested to see more squirrel observations in)
  • Reports of novel fox squirrel behavior were reported, including fox squirrels nesting in pine trees (when they typically prefer deciduous trees) 
  • Excellent behavioral observations of squirrels were submitted, including fox squirrels interacting with the native American Red Squirrel.

Do squirrels live near you? Even though Squirrel Fest 2021 has wrapped, we're still collecting data. You can submit your squirrel observations to NHMU year round. 

More fun ways to explore and learn:

Dr. Eric Rickart.
Insights from Biologists

2020 Q&A with Dr. Eric Rickart & the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Watch the Q&A
A fox squirrel
Squirrel Zine!

Created by NHMU’s Youth Teaching Youth, this Zine explores squirrels in Utah.

Go Nuts!
A fox squirrel
Stay Curious, Utah!

Students and Teachers! Use scientific skills to discover the squirrels in your neighborhood.

Get Savvy!
A fox squirrel study skin.
Explore

Go Behind the Scenes in the Museum's collections to learn more about squirrels.

Take a Tour

 

Tips for identifying Fox Squirrels

  • Adults are large compared to Utah's native tree squirrels, ranging from 18 to 28 inches in total length (including the tail).
  • Have grizzled gray-and-orange backs and undersides that range from pale yellow to bright orange.
  • Tails are very bushy, bright orange, and very long (very fox-like!) – almost as long as their body.
  • Highly adapted to living in trees, and travelling along power lines and fences. When startled, they will escape by climbing.
  • Fox Squirrel Vocalizations

Utah's native squirrels

Not sure if the squirrel you saw is a fox squirrel? Here are Utah's native squirrels for comparison.

American Red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

  • Smaller than fox squirrels, about 12-16 inches long including their tails.
  • Have dark, reddish-brown backs and a pale, creamy underside.
  • Tails are not as bushy as a fox squirrel's.
  • Common around conifer trees in parks, but also travel along telephone lines.
  • Red Squirrel Chatter

Rock squirrel (Otospermophilus variegatus)

  • About the same size as a fox squirrel.
  • Grizzled gray backs with yellow and brown highlights. Their underside is pale.
  • Long tail, but it is only slightly bushy.
  • Spend most of their time on the ground and run rather than bound.
  • When startled, they will retreat to a burrow or rock plie rather than climb.
  • Rock Squirrel vocalizations

Read our Fox Squirrel FAQ's here

If you have questions about the Utah Fox Squirrels project, please contact NHMU Citizen Science Coordinator, Ellen Eiriksson.