- Posted by Mandy Raven
- On October 26, 2020
- 0 Comments
When you think of a squirrel, you probably have a very specific one in mind — the eastern gray squirrel. But there are many others here in North Carolina. You are even very familiar with some of these species but just didn’t know they “count” as squirrels. So let’s take a look at each of the squirrel species found in the Tar Heel state to shed some light on this family of rodents.
- Eastern gray squirrel: To start with the most common and familiar, the eastern gray squirrel is in all 100 N.C. counties. This rodent, which is also the official mammal of the state, has a gray or brown back, a white belly and a long, fluffy tail. They are diurnal (meaning awake during the day) live off nuts and nest mostly in tree cavities.
- Eastern chipmunk: Yes, chipmunks are part of the squirrel family. They are one of the smaller members of the group though, at 12 inches including the tail. Chipmunks make their homes underground in burrows and eat a wide variety of food scavenged from their surroundings, which they carry in pouches in their cheeks. They are identifiable by their black and white stripes along the light brown fur on their backs.
- Northern flying squirrel: North Carolina is lucky to have not one, but two, varieties of flying squirrels, both of which live in the western mountains. The northern flying squirrel is nocturnal, small and has thick, brown fur. They are not skilled at walking along the ground, so when they glide from one tree to another, if they land on the ground, they will immediately hustle up the trunk of the new tree to avoid predators. Their diet includes the eggs and chicks of birds they find in the trees, as well as fungi, tree sap and insects.
- Southern flying squirrel: The other flying squirrel variety we have in the Old North State also lives in the mountains, is nocturnal and has a similar diet that includes eggs and young birds. Their gliding abilities and ground-travel inabilities are also similar. So, the way you can tell them apart is that southern flying squirrels are slightly smaller and have a white belly, not a brown or gray belly. Both flying squirrels live in remote areas, operate at night and are notoriously reclusive though, so you won’t likely get the opportunity to compare sizes or look at their bellies.
- Fox squirrel: Some refer to this large squirrel as “the squirrel on steroids.” It can look very similar to a gray squirrel, but is twice the size and looks more muscular. The fox squirrel is mostly in the eastern half of the state as well as the northwest, but is absent from large parts of the Piedmont and the west. Their colors may be similar to gray squirrels, but fox squirrels have more black and white fur patches. Their diet (of mainly tree nuts) and nesting habits (in tree cavities or, if necessary, leaf nests) are also similar to gray squirrels.
- American red squirrel: This last tree squirrel is not very common in the state, only being found in the Blue Ridge Mountains region. The reason for this is they are more adapted to cooler areas with conifer trees. Sometimes they are called the pine squirrel or the chickaree and are smaller and a more reddish fur tone than the gray squirrel.
- Groundhog/woodchuck: Surprise! Known about equally as the groundhog or the woodchuck, this large rodent is actually a squirrel — a “ground squirrel.” Tree squirrels are smaller and more nimble, but woodchucks and other ground squirrels (or marmots) are still part of the “sciuridae” family. The 8-pound diggers prefer drier areas so their underground dens don’t get flooded and eat mostly leaves and berries.
Having problems with squirrels? If you live in Wake, Durham, Orange or Chatham counties, call Critter Control of the Triangle today at 919-382-0651 to learn how we can help!