southeastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger niger)
This is the largest squirrel in Virginia with a total length of 20-26 inches and a weight of 1.2-3 pounds. There are 3 color phases: grayish, buff, and black, but all have white ears and nose and black on the top of the head. One to two litters of 1-6 young are born each year. There are 2 types of nests: A leaf nest which is a loose mass of leaves and twigs, and a den cavity. They are found at heights from 11-62 feet (average 36 feet) above the ground. This species is diurnal, and forages largely on the ground (less agile in tree tops than other tree squirrels). They may live up to 10 years or more with an average longevity of 6 years.
The southeastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger niger), one of four subspecies found in Virginia, is commonly found in the southeastern counties of the state, and throughout the coastal plain of the south, in mature pine and mixed pine and hardwood forests, including longleaf pine which they prefer when available. This type of fire climax forest in the southeast typically has grassy ground cover, sparse woody understory, relatively low diversity of food plants. It forages in the leaf litter and builds a leafy nest in a tree cavity or fork. It prefers a lone, large tree. Unbroken forest is unsuitable.
This species consumes herbaceous and woody plant parts, herbaceous fruit, softwood fruit, hardwood fruit, plant sap, roots/tubers/rhizomes, insects (adult terrestrial, immature terrestrial), bird eggs, bird nestlings and adults. This species stores food in the ground. Sciurus niger niger feeds mostly on green and mature pine cones. In addition, subterranean fungi are eagerly sought. Other favorite foods are acorns, hickory nuts, berries, maple and elm seeds, buds, insects, and fungal fruiting bodies.