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Utah Fox Squirrels

Fox squirrel (Sciurus niger)
Have you seen fox squirrels in your neighborhood?

Fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) are new to Utah. They were first reported in 2011 in Salt Lake City along the Jordan River at about 1900 South. 
Fox squirrels are now spreading along the Wasatch Front. Scientists at the Natural History Museum of Utah need your help to track the dispersal of this new species. Understanding the distribution of fox squirrels is the first step in understanding their impact on their new home.
Here's what you need to know:

1. Tips for identifying fox squirrels:

  • They are very large compared to Utah’s native tree squirrels, ranging from 18 to 28 inches in length (including their tail).
  • They usually have grizzled gray-and-orange backs and undersides that range from pale to bright orange.
  • Their tails are very bushy and very long – almost as long as their body.
  • They are highly adapted to living in trees. When startled, they will escape by climbing.
  • On the ground, they bound rather than run.

2. Document your fox squirrel observations with iNaturalist

Download the free iNaturalist app to your mobile device and take photos of fox squirrels wherever you see them. iNatuarlist is a great tool for recording and identifying any wild plant or animal you encounter. Watch a short iNaturalist tutorial and learn how to make great observations with your mobile device:

Be sure to add your fox squirrel observations to the Utah Fox Squirrels project in iNaturalist. Check the map on the project page to see how far fox squirrels have spread.

Utah's native squirrels

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

Red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)
Red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

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

Rock squirrel (Otospermophilus variegatus)
Rock squirrel (Otospermophilus variegatus)

  • About the same size as a fox squirrel.
  • They have grizzled gray backs with yellow and brown highlights. Their underside is pale.
  • They have a long tail, but it is only slightly bushy.
  • They 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.

If you have quesitons about the Utah Fox Squirrels project, please contact Ellen Eiriksson.