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red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus abieticola)

Distribution Map

Distribution Map

Characteristics

This is the smallest tree squirrel in the range with a total length of 11-14 inches. It has a flattened bushy tail, eyes ringed with white, and a marked seasonal pelage difference. In the winter the fur is thicker longer and softer, with a broad rusty band dorsally from between the ears to nearly the tip of the tail. The sides are olive gray sprinkled with black hairs, and prominent reddish or black ear tufts (characteristic). The underparts are grayish white. In the summer they are more olive, and lack the dorsal red band. A prominent black line separates the white belly from the olive back. The ear tufts are absent. It is darker than T. h. loquax and has a deeper shaded red dorsal band. The underparts are more grayish in the winter. One to two litters of 3-7 young are born each year. The nests are usually built near the trunk of a tree. This species is noisy and has a ratchet like call, and much verbal communication.

Distribution

This subspecies is found in the western quarter of the state. Although they are most common in forests dominated by spruce, fir, and hemlock, they do occur in mixed forests or pure deciduous forests. They are at higher elevations in counties west of the Blue Ridge.

Foods

Many mushroom species are eaten including amanitas. They are either tolerant or immune to their poison. They pull loose bark from trees to reach moth pupae, larvae of bark beetles and wood borers. It stores food in a few large caches. Fungi may be stored in tree crotches.

More Information

For more information, please visit the Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service (direct link to species booklet).