Squirrel Biology

Kentucky has three species of tree squirrels, eastern gray (Sciurus carolinensis), northern fox (Sciurus niger), and southern flying (Glaucomys volans) squirrel . Gray and fox squirrels may be hunted in the Commonwealth and flying squirrels may not be hunted. More hunters participate in squirrel hunting than in any other type of hunting in Kentucky. Squirrels are also highly enjoyed by non-hunters as they are easily drawn into backyards by birdfeeders, and offer plenty of viewing opportunities while they feed.

Distinguishing between species:

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis):

  • Size:
    • 17-20"
    • 1 - 1 1/2 lbs.
  • Color:
    • Gray to brownish with white belly.  White tipped tail hairs.
    • Black (melanistic) or white (albino) - rare but more common in gray squirrels than other mammals.

Northern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger):

  • Size:
    • 18-27"
    • 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 lbs.
  • Color:
    • Grizzled salt and pepper gray with yellow to orange upper body parts.
    • Pale yellow to bright orange under parts.  Yellow tipped tail hairs.
Squirrels usually breed twice a year; summer and winter. A litter of usually 3-4 young are born 40-45 days later. The young are reared, and then are on their own at about two months of age. Some females may produce litters during both breeding seasons and others only produce during one season. This is controlled mainly by the local food supply and age. Squirrels will most often be found feeding on nuts, twigs, buds, and fruits of the trees; although they have been observed preying upon bird nestlings and insects. They also are hoarders, meaning that squirrels will gather up food items and stash them away in what is called a cache. These caches are storage units for the squirrels to hold food for winter. Squirrels are solitary animals but can be very social where there is suitable habitat.