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9 Types of Squirrels in North America

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Nine common types of squirrels in North America include Eastern Gray Squirrels, American Red Squirrels, Fox Squirrels, Chipmunks, Alaska Marmots, Olympic Marmots, Prairie Dogs, Southern Flying Squirrels, and Northern Flying Squirrels.

There are more than 200 species of squirrels in the world. 

These small to medium-sized rodents are divided into three main types of squirrels:

  • Tree squirrels
  • Ground squirrels
  • Flying squirrels

Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa. They live on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. [1] 

Their almond eyes and fluffy tails have endured them to many people. With 200 species of squirrels in the world, there is so much to learn about these sweet-looking mammals.  

To start with, let’s look at nine types of squirrels native to North America, how to identify them and what they eat. 

Types of Squirrels In North America 

There are three main categories of a squirrel in North America: tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels. 

Tree squirrels live among trees, ground squirrels dig burrows, and flying squirrels live in trees. The gliding ability that flying squirrels possess sets them apart from their tree-dwelling and burrowing cousins.

Here are the most common types of squirrels in North America: 

  1. Eastern Gray Squirrels 
  2. American Red Squirrels 
  3. Fox Squirrels 
  4. Chipmunks 
  5. Alaska Marmots
  6.  Olympic Marmots
  7. Prairie Dogs 
  8. Southern Flying Squirrels
  9. Northern Flying Squirrels 

Tree Squirrels In North America 

Tree squirrels live in or among trees. There are more than 100 types of tree squirrels. Eastern gray squirrel, American Red Squirrel, and the American fox squirrel are native to North America. 

SpeciesSizeHabitat
Eastern Gray Squirrel15-20.7 inchesTree canopies from the west of the Mississippi River to the North of Canada.
American Red Squirrel12.6 inchesConiferous forests, and suburbs with coniferous forests.
Fox Squirrel23.43 inchesForests and smaller urban forested areas.

1. Eastern Gray Squirrels

Eastern Gray Squirrels

The Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is native to eastern North America. These squirrels live among tree canopies from the west of the Mississippi River to the north of Canada. 

They prefer mature continuous woodlands of more than 40 hectares[2]. They have made homes of suburbs and city parks. If you visit New York and see a squirrel in one of the parks, it’s an Eastern gray squirrel.[3] 

This squirrel was exported to other parts world, including parts of Britain, Ireland, and Italy.

What Do Eastern Gray Squirrels Look Like? 

Eastern gray squirrels have pale grey to dark grey fur, a white underbelly, and white flecks in their bushy grey tails. There is no difference in size and color between males and females.

They have an average mass of 19.04 ounces (540.33 grams) and their total length ranges from 15-20.7 inches (38-52.5 cm) with a tail length of 5.9-9.8 inches (15-25 centimeters). [4] 

You can sometimes find black squirrels among gray squirrels. Black squirrels developed through interspecies breeding between the gray squirrel and the fox squirrel.

Eastern Gray Squirrels

What Do Eastern Gray Squirrels Eat? 

Eastern gray squirrels are omnivores and mainly feed on:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Flowers
  • Tree buds
  • Herbaceous plants
  • Fungi
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Insects
  • Bird eggs
  • Frogs

They thrive in forests with oak, walnuts, and pine trees. These trees produce foods that squirrels store through winter. 

2. American Red Squirrels

American Red Squirrel
Image Source

American Red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) live across North America in coniferous forests. They also live in suburban and urban settings where there is an interlocking coniferous tree canopy. [5]  

What Do American Red Squirrels Look Like? 

The American red squirrel has a reddish coat, a white underside, white rings around the eyes, and tufted ears in the winter.

These squirrels are 30% smaller than the gray squirrel and weigh 7.51 ounces (212.97 grams) on average. They measure 12.6 inches (32 cm) in length on average. Much of their length is made up of a tail, which is 3.6 to 6.2 inches (9,2 to 15,8 centimeters) long.

What Do American Red Squirrels Eat? 

Red squirrels are primarily herbivores. They eat the following:

  • Pine nuts 
  • Mushrooms
  • Tree buds, flowers
  • Fleshy fruits
  • Tree sap
  • Bark
  • Insects (occasionally)
  • Bird eggs (occasionally) [6] 

3. Fox Squirrels

Fox Squirrel

The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) is North America’s largest native tree squirrel. Fox squirrels live in forests and smaller urban forested areas of 40 hectares (400 meters) in the eastern United States and in the southern prairie provinces of Canada. 

What Do Fox Squirrels Look Like? 

Also known as the eastern fox squirrel or Bryant’s fox squirrel, they have an average mass of 21.19 ounces (800g) and an average total length of 23.43 inches (595mm). 

Their fur coats are brow-gray to brown-yellow in color with an orangish-brown underside. In the eastern regions, they can have darker brown to black fur with white bands on the face and tail. [7] 

What Do Fox Squirrels Eat? 

Fox squirrels are omnivores. They eat the following: 

  • Nuts.
  • Flowers.
  • Buds of oak trees, walnut, hickory, and pecan trees.
  • Fruits
  • Seeds
  • birds’ eggs
  • Nestlings of birds
  • Other small animals. [8] 

Ground Squirrels in North America 

Ground squirrels live in barrows in the ground. They have a unique ability to rise on their hind legs and stand for long periods. They are social creatures and live in colonies. Ground squirrels in North America include Chipmunks, Alaska marmots, Olympic marmots, and prairie dogs. 

SpeciesSizeHabitat
Chipmunks3.1-6.3 inchesForests from southern Canada to west-central Mexico.
Alaska Marmot23-24 inchesMountainsides along the Brooks Range in Alaska.
Olympic Marmot26-30 inchesOlympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington.
Prarie Dog12-16 inchesGrasslands of North America.

4. Chipmunks 

Chipmunks

Chipmunks are described as striped pygmy squirrels. They are found in various types of forests from southern Canada to west-central Mexico.[9] 

These small omnivores are known for stuffy food in their mouths until their cheeks puff out. Chipmunks’ large internal cheek pouches allow them to do this. 

What Do Chipmunks Look Like? 

Chipmunks are known as striped squirrels because of their distinguishing dark brown and white stripes on their backs. They also have white stripes lining their eyes, a white underbelly, and a furry tail. 

They range in size from 3.1 to 6.3 inches (8 to 16 centimeters) in length with a tail of 2.4 to 5.5 inches (6 to 14 centimeters) long.

What Do Chipmunks Eat? 

Chipmunks are omnivores and eat the following: 

  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Buds
  • Grass
  • Shoots
  • Fungi
  • Insects
  • Small frogs
  • Worms
  • Bird eggs

5. Alaska Marmot

Alaska Marmot

Alaska marmots (Marmota broweri) live in colonies along the Brooks Range, Alaska. They eat grass, seeds, and lichen found along the rocky mountainsides. 

Marmots are the heaviest member of the squirrel family and can weigh anything from 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms) to (24lb) 11 kilograms. 

What Do Alaska Marmots Look Like? 

Alaska marmots have small eyes and ears, a short neck, and a fluffy tail. Coarse gray fur covers their thick, compact bodies supported on stubby and strong legs. 

On average, males have a total length of 24 inches (61 centimeters) long and weigh 7.9 pounds (3.6 kilograms). The females’ average length is 23 inches (58 centimeters ) and they weigh 7.1 pounds (3.2 kilograms). 

What Do Alaska Marmots Eat? 

Primarily herbivores, Alaska Marmots eat the following: 

  • Grasses
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Fruits.
  • Insects [10] 

6. Olympic Marmots

Olympic Marmots
Image Source

The Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus) is found in the Olympic National Park on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington.[11] 

What Do Olympic Marmots Look Like? 

Olympic marmots weigh up to 24.3 pounds (11 kilograms). They have small eyes and eyes, bushy tails, and their stocky bodies are supported by strong, short legs. They measure between 26 to 30 inches (67 to 75 centimeters) in length. 

The Olympic marmot has an interesting coat of fur. 

Their fur has two layers: a soft, thick underfur and a courser outer layer of fur. 

Their coats also change color with the seasons and with age. While the marmot’s muzzle and rings around its eyes stay white, its brown fur coat darkens until it molts in June. This molt is followed by the forming of two black patches of fur on the back of the shoulders. By the time it is fall (autumn), the marmot’s coat is almost completely black. 

After winter hibernation, Olympic marmots emerge with a yellowish-tan coat. 

Young marmots’ fur starts as dark gray color and changes to grayish brown color with lighter patches. 

What Do Olympic Marmots Eat? 

Olympic Marmots are folivorous, which means they eat leaves. They eat the following:  

  • Flowering meadow plants
  • Roots
  • Fruit (occasionally)
  • Insects (occasionally) 

7. Prairie Dogs 

Prairie Dogs

Prairie dogs (genus Cynomys) are burrowing species of ground squirrels. They live in the grasslands of North America. They were given the name prairie dogs because of where they live and their barking warning call.

There are five species of prairie dogs: 

  1. Black-tailed prairie dogs
  2. White-tailed prairie dogs
  3. Gunnison’s prairie dogs
  4. Utah prairie dogs
  5. Mexican prairie dogs

The Black-tailed prairie dog is the most common species. [12] 

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the Utah prairie dog and Mexican prairie dog as endangered in their Red List of Threatened Species. [13] 

What Do Prairie Dogs Look Like? 

Prairie Dogs have stout bodies, small ears, short necks, small tails, and stubby legs. Their fur ranges in color from brown and gray-brown to a warm orange-brown. 

They grow to be between 12 and 16 inches (30 and 40 centimeters ) long and weigh between 1 and 3 pounds (0.5 and 1.5 kilograms).

What Do Prairie Dogs Eat? 

Primarily herbivores, Prairie Dogs mostly eat: 

  • Grasses
  • Roots
  • Seeds
  • Fruit
  • Buds
  • Insects (occasionally)  

Flying Squirrels in North America 

Northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) and Southern flying squirrels (Glaucomys volans) are native to North America. Although they are called flying squirrels, they do not fly but glide from tree to tree. They do this by using a skin membrane that stretches from wrist to ankle. Their long tails are used to stabilize them during flight. 

Northern flying squirrels and Southern flying squirrels are both nocturnal and look similar, but there are a few notable differences in size and coloring. 

There are about 50 species of flying squirrels in total.

SpeciesSizeHabitat
Southern flying squirrel8.35-10.12 inchesForests in the eastern half of the United States, southeastern Canada, Mexico, and Honduras
Northern flying squirrel10-12 inchesForests across Canada, south to the mountains of North Carolina, and west to Utah in the United States

8. Southern Flying Squirrels 

Southern Flying Squirrels
Image Source

Southern Flying Squirrels (Glaucomys volans) live in woodlands and forests in the eastern half of the United States, southeastern Canada, Mexico, and Honduras.

What Do Southern Flying Squirrels Look Like? 

Southern flying squirrels are gray-brown with a white underside. They have a flap of loose skin extending from the wrist to the ankle that helps them glide. 

They are 8.35 to 10.12 inches (21 to 26 centimeters) in length and have an average mass of 2.30 ounces (65.4 grams). [14]

9. Northern Flying Squirrels

Northern Flying Squirrels
Image Source

Northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus) live in forests across Canada, and south to the mountains of North Carolina and west to Utah in the United States.

What Do Northern Flying Squirrels Look Like? 

Northern flying squirrels look similar to South Flying squirrels, but instead of a white underside, they have gray fur covering their bellies. 

Northern flying squirrels are also a little bigger, at 10 to 12 inches (26 to 30,4 centimeters) long.[15] 

What Do Fly Squirrels Eat? 

Flying squirrels are omnivores and mostly feed on the following:

  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Fungi
  • Fruit
  • Insects
  • Eggs
  • Birds

FAQs

What Kind of Squirrel Species Live in New York?

Eastern gray squirrels are the type of squirrel found in New York City Parks. They can range in color from pale grey to dark grey and black.  

How Many Types of Squirrels Are There? 

There are more than 200 species of squirrels in the world divided into three types: tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels. 

About Monique Warner

Monique is an avid dog lover who grew up with dogs, cats, and budgies as pets. She has worked as a pet sitter and dog walker. With her passion for dogs and pets alike, she writes articles with the intention of helping pet owners solve their biggest struggles.

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