Squirrels

Both the gray (Sciurus carolinensis) and fox (Sciurus niger) squirrel occur throughout the state of Louisiana and both species are popular game with hunters. Specific population surveys are not conducted for these species; however, LDWF's annual hunter harvest survey provides indices to population trends. The 2012-13 survey estimated that 50,700 squirrel hunters harvested 872,100 squirrels.

The gray squirrel, as the name implies, is usually grayish or grayish brown above. It is white or grayish white below. The fox squirrel is rust colored, particularly on the underparts. There are two recognized subspecies of gray squirrels and three subspecies of the fox squirrel in Louisiana. In addition, melanistic (black) color phases occur in each species.

Food

Lowery (1974) notes that both species of squirrels eat practically every kind of vegetable food that grows, whether beneath the soil or in the treetops. These foods include buried nuts, acorns, pecans, hickories, the new buds of trees, beetles, other insects, tubers, bulbs, roots, eggs of birds, seeds of spring-fruiting trees, berries, fruits, nuts, and grain.

  

Reproduction

In good production years, adult squirrels will have two litters--one in the spring and one in the late summer. The average number of young to a litter is three for both species of squirrels, but can range anywhere from one to eight. The adults care for the young until they are about three months of age. 

In the absence of major habitat modifications, year to year fluctuations in squirrel populations are due primarily to the prior year's mast crop.

Fun Fact

In Louisiana, the gray squirrel is almost always referred to as the cat squirrel. The French-speaking inhabitants of the southern part of the state call it écureuil gris.

The fox squirrel is sometimes called the red squirrel. In areas of the state where it occurs in pine habitat it is sometimes referred to as the piney-woods squirrel. Other names sometimes heard are big head, chucklehead, and bushy-tail.

Literature Cited

Lowery, G.H., Jr. 1974. The Mammals of Louisiana and its Adjacent Waters. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge. 565 pp.