Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Masked Face Fox Squirrel

Have you ever seen a fox squirrel like this?


Fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) are one of the most variable colored tree squirrels in the world. They are known for their rufous colored fur but their upper coloring can in fact range from black, silver and red. Whereas their body coloring can differ, they all have reddish-orange bellies. A consistent feature of these squirrels in the Southeast is a dark facial mask around the eyes and nose with the tips of the nose and ears being white.


They are large squirrels weighing about 3 lbs. with bodies about 10 inches long and their tails equally as long.

Despite the fact that the fox squirrel is found along the eastern parts of North America over to the Great Lakes and the Canadian border populations are scattered and densities low. This is my first time seeing this masked face squirrel sometimes referred to as a raccoon face squirrel. My in-laws are happy this unusual looking squirrel has taken residence in a tree at their farm.


Most people have an opinion about squirrels. Some people feed them and others consider them a nuisance and try desperately to get rid of them. Which ever side of the fence you fall, it is important to know that squirrels play an essential role in the composition of forests. Some years they may eat most of the seeds produced by trees but when squirrels bury seeds and forget them these seeds will sprout promoting the growth of certain types of trees. Squirrels are also an important source of food for hawks and owls and the babies are sometimes taken by snakes.


(I apologize for the quality of these photos. My only chance to photograph this squirrel was right before a strong storm rolled in and it was very dark and I had to use flash.)

My next post will feature all the flora and fauna found at the family farm. 

52 comments:

  1. I have never seen anything like this! I never knew there were such squirrels. So glad you got pics! I hope your in-laws keep him around for a long time.

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    1. I saw one last week. I too was shocked! I wasn't sure what it was exactly. It was in Chelsea, Alabama

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    2. I just saw one on Daniel Island, SC - it was the first time in my life I have seen a "Fox Squirrel"! This one caught my eye as I was bicycling near the Wando River- he (or she ... imagine a "he" since males in wildlife are usually more colorful) was "friendly"; I walked toward him and he ran up a Palm tree, but not too far up. He turned upside down and just stared at me. As I got closer, I "talked to him", and he actually came back down the tree, walked back into this yard, and went about what he was doing when I spotted him. Got a couple good pictures. This squirrel was so beautiful, but no red on him at all. He was all grey with white and the "black" of his mask continued down his back throughout his very busy tail. Could not get over how "friendly" he seemed or how BIG he was! Will have to go back there from time to time to visit that beauty! "Thanks" for your site; would not have known what type squirrel he was until I did an online search. =)

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    3. I live in eastern nc and today I was shocked to see a large red squirrel with a white mask as big as a cat in a wooded area by a creek that connects to an intercoastal waterway. Have never seen one like this. Tried to take a pic with my cell phone but it would not cooperate. Plan on going to the same place soon hoping to get another look. Amazing!

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    4. I just seen 1 for the first time at red top mountain in north GA on December. 2nd . I wasn't sure what we were looking at but now I know. Very cool looking and it was red. Looking forward to the next sighting.

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    5. Finally, I know what this gorgeous creature is. I spotted it for the first time in 2011 in Columbiana, AL. Thought it was a mutant fox it was so much bigger than a squirrel. I never saw it again until today - just a couple of yards away from where I saw it the first time. This time I got a close up. Gosh I wish this beauty lived in my yard. Thanks for posting this image

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    6. Just saw a bunch of these while golfing today at Innisbrook Golf Club in Pinellas County, FL (Palm Harbor area. Wow!

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    7. We saw one today and we were able to identify it by your pictures. We live in Ft Myers, FL (Southwest Florida). It was amazing to look at...we had never seen a squirrel like this! "What the heck is that" is what my Mom said as we were driving by. Ours looked almost identical to your pictures. Amazing! Thanks for the great post, pics and info. :)

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    8. Yep! There here in Florida. Just saw one yesterday in my wooded 4 acre backyard in East Orlando. It was very different from the smaller squirrels. Orange/buff chest, white tipped ears, a black mask and a white nose. At first, I thought it was a mix of a squirrel and an opossum. I also noticed that he wasn't jittery or nervous like most squirrels. Instead, he moved in a calm and assured manner.

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    9. Squirrels and possums don't "mix" and thus give birth to a completely new species. Nor do woodpeckers and rattlesnakes. Nor do kangaroos and beavers. (Gee, I could do this all day?)

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    10. Just saw one in Naples, Fl on our way to Trader Joes! Had to make a U ee to get a better look. We thought it was a monkey at first glance ... LOL what a special surprise. Never knew they existed.

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    12. There are a few in Lake Chautauqua Park in Pinellas (Clearwater). Sherman's fox squirrel as I recall. They do remind one of a primate at first glance. Very large and striking appearance.

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  2. I love squirrels and never even knew this one existed--adorable.

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  3. I have never seen these squirrels even though you stated I possibly live within their range. I hope I have my camera with me if one shows up. They are really odd looking. Your photos are fine and show him pretty well.

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  4. Wow what a cool little bandit.. he looks ready to raid the bird feeders!

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  5. Looks like a bushy tailed rat with a mask on. Can't stand those varmits. lol....

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  6. Great post.
    He's quite different to the fox squirrels we see here:
    Southwest Georgia Fox Squirrel post
    I am not a fan of squirrels. We are overrun with common gray squirrels.

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  7. What an unique looking squirrel! Only one? I wonder if its partner looks like that too. I wonder how the kids would look like. Do keep us updated if you see a family of them. :)

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  8. Wow - a squirrel dressed early for Halloween ! ;-)

    I've never seen anything like it and wondered at first whether you'd had fun with Photoshop. Cool squirrel ! (and that's coming from someone who thinks squirrels are rats with bushy tails)

    Nice shots Karin !

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  9. That is such a treat to see a flying squirrel, especially since they are nocturnal and shy of people. Your inlaws are so fortunate to have one nesting on the farm.

    I was reading about them recently in the naturalist John K. Terres' book "From Laurel Hill to Siler's Bog" (which I highly recommend). He had a pet flying squirrel for a time and he wanted to test its capabilities. So he put out nuts at night to see what she would do. In one night she stored 200 hickory nuts. She also remembered which nuts she had stored, and would refuse to store one that she had already touched.

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  10. Oops! Guess because I had just read about the flying squirrels I somehow missed that you were writing about a fox squirrel! Sorry! I have never heard of them.

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  11. Holleygarden, my IL are hopping they nest here. This is the first year they have been seen in this tree by the pond.

    Carolyn/Carolynshadgarden, I wasn't familiar with this masked squirrel either before this visit. It is nice that we can still be surprised by wildlife and nature.

    Donna/GWGT I believe you are in the range for fox squirrels. I hope you will have the opportunity to see one someday.

    LisaJennings, so far he hasn't touched the bird feeders. I think he if finding enough to eat in the trees by the pond. He has also been spotted on the hay bails.

    Greggo, you are probably with the majority with your thoughts. But how can you resist this face?!

    NellJean, thanks for sharing your post! Yours has a more gray body and the head isn't as dark. Interesting...

    One, I have only seen the one squirrel but apparently there are more. My FIL wants me to get photos of two of them together (he is raising the bar, LOL) but no luck yet.

    Rick, thanks! It does look as if someone put the wrong head on the squirrel's body but rest assured it is the real thing :O)

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  12. Amazing! Must be fasinating to watch them. We just have boring old grey squirrels here, they even chased the Red ones away and now the only place you can find those is on the isle of wight or brownsea Island. Such a shame. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful pictures!

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  13. Fascinating! I've never seen one like this...he looks a bit like a monkey ;)

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  14. Hee hee! Isn't he cute? I've never heard of them, either!

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  15. That has to be the most unique squirrel I've ever seen! I'm somewhat ambivalent toward squirrels. I think they're cute, but they steal my peaches and tomatoes too, and chew through the drip irrigation lines. However, I once read they forget where they bury the vast majority of their seeds and nuts, so who knows, one squirrel could be responsible for planting an entire forest! Maybe they're not so bad after all?

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  16. I have 6 of these little peach eaters on my property in south Alabama. I didn't get a single peach this year (3trees). They are cute but greedy!

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  17. I saw 3 of these whiteface fox squirrels from my deer stand in Mississippi. They were not as unique as this one but the same type, they are Bachman fox squirrels.

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  18. Fascinating! I have lots of fox squirrels but I've never seen anything like this. I'm one of those pro-squirrel people so I would be delighted to see one like him in my yard.

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  19. I saw one a few weeks ago in Covington, LA. Had never seen one before. Fascinating....

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  20. Spotted one a week ago here in Hudson, FL. Never saw one before, and got so excited!

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  21. Last September 2011, I saw one of these in Madison, Mississippi. I had never seen one before and was startled by his fearlessness. He wasn't the least bit scared of me. I've never seen one since then and wondered if there were others or if he had been moved here from some other area.

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  22. By the way, thanks for posting your photos. I have not seen any other photos on the internet that looked like the one I saw. Was beginning to think he was an oddity. I made a video of him, but it's a little blurry.
    From: Madison, MS

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  23. We saw a pair of these unusual looking squirrels at the I 10 Mississippi welcome center today! They were quite an amazing sight.

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  24. We saw a pair of these unusual looking squirrels at the I 10 Mississippi welcome center today! They were quite an amazing sight.

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  26. Saw one for the first time today on a country road ~Pasco county, Florida. It ran across the street ahead of our jeep and I thought to myself -what a large squirrel. As we passed the entrance to a home, with large gates in front , the squirrel was sitting on top of a post. It all went so quick but I knew it had a different face and looked huge compared to the small squirrels at my own home. My husband was driving and I wanted him to go back... but we had to keep going.

    Later, When I searched for a "large squirrel with raccoon eyes"...I found you. Thank-you. (I thought it looked kind of like that cartoon character the Meer cat in Lion King...and my family just shook their heads...like I was crazy!)

    Ahhh... It's been a 'great' day!!! :)

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  27. First time seeing one of these, playing golf at Kiva Dunes in Fort Morgan, Alabama. He ran up to the golf cart and sat up as if to say "Feed me." We gave him the core of our apple and he fan off carrying it in his mouth. My buddy shouted, "Look at the nuts on that squirrel!!"

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  28. We live in Port Saint Lucie Florida and I saw one yesterday! Thanks to you we were able to identify it.

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  29. Looks like this kind of squirrel is getting more and more common. I saw one today for the first time. I live in Northern Florida in the Lake City area. One person described the one he saw as "friendly". I agree. He did not seem the least bit concerned about us.

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  30. I spotted a Fox Squirrel for the first time today in Thomaston Ga...Beautiful creature and seems to be very friendly as well as playful...One was wrestling with a golf ball on the golf course lol. Very cute

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  31. I have seen a simular squirrel here in Indiana, it has a fox squirrels body shape and color all but its head and part of its chest is black.( no white on this one) i have been told that its a genetic mutation caused from a grey and fox squirrel cross breading. There are also sightings of completely black squirrels here too some have nick named then Ninja squirrels but they r small like the grey squirrel with a totally black body and tail. I have only seen pics of these though.

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  32. I have seen a simular squirrel here in Indiana, it has a fox squirrels body shape and color all but its head and part of its chest is black.( no white on this one) i have been told that its a genetic mutation caused from a grey and fox squirrel cross breading. There are also sightings of completely black squirrels here too some have nick named then Ninja squirrels but they r small like the grey squirrel with a totally black body and tail. I have only seen pics of these though.

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    1. In Missouri, we have a population of albino squirrels. Not once in a while, every one! People have tried to remove them to other areas, but they always die immediately, so they can only exist in one small area for sme unknown reason.

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  33. I live in Kiln Mississippi and my wife and me just saw are first one. We did not know what it was till my wife googled it. Simply Beautiful is all I have to say!!

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  34. I live in Kiln Mississippi and my wife and me just saw are first one. We did not know what it was till my wife googled it. Simply Beautiful is all I have to say!!

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  35. My wife and I went to the Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge near Ocean City, MS yesterday in hopes of seeing them. We found out there were only 129 living cranes, and therefire hard to see....esoecially since it is breeding season, so they become very reclusive. The visitor center is well worth a visit. The volunteer there told us we might find one or more outside the reserve in a couple of locations. We went there, found two, and were busily shooting photos when my wife noticed this squirrel. We got a few photos with my Nikon D750 and Sigma 150-500mm "Bigma" telephoto set at 500mm. Unfortunately, I was shooting from the driver's seat, belted in, twisting at the waist, and sometimes shooting through her window. Not copping a plea, but merely explaining why the photos aren't very good. We followed it around for a while. But finding this dude with two juvenile Sandhill Cranes ( one had the standard leg bandings, but one hadn't been banded) in one spot was fantastic! We saw one similar to this squirrel in Big Bend, TX last year at Boquillo Canyon, but couldn't see it well. These are as cool as our Albino squirrels in Marionville, Missouri. Wish I could post photos!

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  36. Forgot to mention that "our" Masked Fox Squirrel had a large, obvious, bright, white tip to its tail. At first I thought it was a skunk since it was facing away from us. It was amazing to see the little dude! He would run up a tree, jump to another, then climb right back down a few minutes later. He was great to see. I wish we had them at home. It would have its own feeder. My wife went nutso over how cute she thought it was. I always thought of squirrels as rats with bushy tails until she converted me. But, then, she had a pet skunk for a very, very short time....and married me. That proves she is sweet and loves foolish looking animals.

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  37. My dogs brought one to me about 7 years ago here in Rome, GA. I had never seen one till then. It was very large in comparison to most of the grey squirrels around here. Have never seen another one dead or alive.

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  38. We have a masked face fox squirrel in our woods for the first time - Covington,LA - he is very large and pretty. Love it!

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