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Utah Fox Squirrels

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

The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger), a species native to the eastern half of the US, was introduced into California more than a century ago. It has since became established in several western states, but has only recently arrived in Utah. Fox squirrels were first reported in 2011 in Salt Lake City along the Jordan River at about 1900 South and have since been spreading along the Wasatch Front. The arrival of this non-native species has offered an opportunity to study, first-hand, the ecology of an invasive species. It is also the perfect opportunity to harness the power of citizen science!

Scientists at the Natural History Museum of Utah, and elsewhere, need your help to track the continued spread and population growth of fox squirrels in our state. Gathering more data will provide a firm basis for understanding their ecological adjustments and limitations and how they may shape the ecology of northern Utah.

Here's how to get involved:

1. Document your fox squirrel observations with iNaturalist 

You can quickly and easily record observations of Utah squirrels by downloading the free iNaturalist app to your mobile device and taking photos of squirrels wherever you see them. iNatuarlist is a great tool for recording and identifying any wild plant or animal you encounter, and gives us insight into where fox squirrels are spreading. Visit our Utah Fox Squirrels iNaturalist page to see the current map of distribution, and Fox Squirrel Observations. Watch a short tutorial below to learn how to make observations with your mobile device:

2.  Submit your observations of Fox Squirrels to provide the Museum with much-needed additional data that iNatualist is not able to capture. 

Tips for identifying Fox Squirrels

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

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)

  • 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)

  • 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 questions about the Utah Fox Squirrels project, please contact Ellen Eiriksson.

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