Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fox Squirrels in Eastern North Carolina ( Sciurus niger niger )

The Fox Squirrel found in Eastern North Carolina are the biggest squirrels in North America . The scientific name for this squirrel is Sciurus niger niger. The Fox Squirrel found in Northwestern North Carolina and a few spots in the piedmont is a different subspecies. Most biologist call Sciurus niger niger the Southeastern fox squirrel or the Southern Fox Squirrel  as it is found from SE Virginia to Northern Florida. In Northern Florida some call it the Carolina Fox Squirrel.

This squirrel favors  Mature Longleaf pine forest that are burned and have a scattering of oaks underneath and also the surrounding bottoms. The can and do live in other habitats like big mature Loblollies that are open(and burned) but the Lonfleaf pine forest is the best habitat. A preferred habitat is some golf courses in eastern North Carolina.  The fox squirrel has to have favorable habitat so some areas have good populations and then others the Fox squirrels are scattered in isolated pockets of favorable habitat.  This squirrel(S. niger niger) always has a Black head with white nose and ears. Some call this a mask. The rest of the squirrel can be any color. North Carolina allows hunting for The southeastern fox squirrel in 21 eastern counties. North Carolina allows hunting for the subspecies found in the west in only 2 counties. Here is a list of the 21 Eastern counties and I will add some tidbits of what I know. 
 
Anson- found in predominately loblollies in this county.
Bladen- Good habitat
Brunswick-  good habitat
Cumberland- good habitat especially on Ft. Bragg
Duplin -
Edgecombe- only opened recently
Greene-
Harnett-
Hoke- good habitat
Johnston- most found east of I-95 but a few pockets of them west of I-95
Jones- I have seen a few in this county
Lenoir- I have seen a lot in this county
Moore- good habitat-I have seen a lot in this county
New Hanover- good
Onslow-
Pender-
Pitt-
Richmond-good habitat
Sampson- good
Scotland- good
Wayne- Lots of reports from this area
 
Now for counties where I know this animal exists but hunting isn't allowed. These are usually counties that border the above counties. and I will list then in no particular order.
 
Union- eastern part
Stanley-
Montgomery- candor south mostly
Chatham- Limited to a few isolated "pockets"
Lee-
Wake-Limited to a few Isolated "pockets"  a few found within a few miles of Apex/Cary
Wilson-
Halifax-
Northhampton-
Martin-Good reports from there- some on Roanoke River Refuge
Craven- I have seen a lot in this county - I have wondered why there is no season here???
Carteret-
Robeson-I have seen 1 there, it is decent habitat but not great.
Columbus-
Bertie-
Hertford-
Beaufort-
Pamilco- used to be a lot around Minnisott
Randolph-a few reports from very southern part 
 
The counties above defiantly have some , other counties maybe Gates, Nash and a few others.
The key to more Fox squirrels in eastern North Carolina is more controlled burns in the Longleaf  and  The Loblolly pine forest  but to leave some oaks underneath. The restoration of the Longleaf to its habitat it has lost will do a lot for the fox squirrel. The  Loblolly  forest around Jordan lake is being  thinned and burned some  by the forest service and the maturing of that forest may lead to very good habitat in the future.  If you look closely (But be careful while driving) you can see some Longleafs (very few) scattered along us1 in Wake and Chatham counties. Virginia also has some S. niger niger in a few counties above Northhampton and Hertford but it is very rare there.
 
I have hunted and studied  S. niger niger  since 1990 and Even though my favorite animal to hunt is the Fox Squirrel , I would never hunt them in a place where they were not common. if you have some on your land in a county where they are not allowed to be hunted please make sure they are protected and if you can,  plant some Longleafs and possibly do some controlled burns.
Like I said in my last post, this week I am planting 100 Longleafs. 100 is not that many but if every hunter in NC  planted 100 we would be in good shape.

Here are a few pics of ones I have harvested.  I will post some more pictures at a later date.

This is what is called a "saddleback" color phase.  Except most saddlebacks do not have the white tipped tail.

This was my son's first Fox Sq. he harvested about 5 years ago. He spotted it in the top of that big loblolly he is in front of.



This Black Phase Fox Squirrel was the first Black one I harvested back in the early 90's.
This squirrel measures fron the tip of his nose to the base of the tail 17 inches. Then from the base of the tail to the tip of the tail it is 17.5 inches making this squirrel 34.5 inches long!!!!!  When someone unfamiliar with these squirrels sees one they have no idea it is a squirrel because they are twice as big as a gray squirrel. Note - 25 percent of Fox Squirrels in Eastern NC are Black. This varies from county to county but usually 25 percent are Black.  



This Old guy below was a brute  going 3.4 lbs.  His Black face is almost faded out. This is one of the best looking ones I have harvested. You have to see him in person. The color is a blue-silver. I was about to quit squirrel  hunting that evening as I hadn't seen a Fox Squirrel all day so right before dark I went where the Longleafs give way to the thick bottoms and proceeded to call on a dying rabbit call to coax a Bobcat out of the bottom. Instead of a bobcat coming out of the thick bottom I kept hearing something behind me getting closer and closer every time I called. When I finally turned around this old guy was staring me down. Sometimes animals come to predator calls just out of curiosity. 


This is a recent one, This is one of the common color phases. Reddish gray. You can also see really good the black head with white nose and ears that they all have.


Mack

5 comments:

Kev2380 said...

I have never seen a squirrel like that before, ever. I'd like to know where they are near Cary and Apex just so I could take pics.

Anonymous said...

A large, mostly black, one dashed across Airport Rd (Pinehurst) in front of me last week. First one I've seen here in 7 years. There are reportedly quite a few in Weymouth Woods, Sandhills Nature Preserve, Southern Pines. You may contact Rangers there at 910-692-2167 or weymouth.woods@ncmail.net

Anonymous said...

I had two run past me yesterday while out hunting. Never seen nothing like them before and they were HUGE! Have to say about twice as big as your average squirrel. One all black and the other was gray with a black/white face. Onslow County

Anonymous said...

I run a route for Fedex, and much of it is in Montgomery County. I see fox squirrels nearly every day around Candor, and half are the black phase. I have seen them near Biscoe too, and down around Norman. I have seen a few in Davidson County as well, down in the gated neighborhoods at High Rock Lake,Flat Swamp area. All the ones there are the tawny gray variety.

Anonymous said...

They are all over Cherry Hospital in Wayne County, NC.