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Southern Fox Squirrel

Sciurus niger niger

Listing Status

  • Federal Status: Not listed
  • FL Status: Removed as a Species of Special Concern in 2018
  • FNAI Ranks: G5T5/S3 (Globally: Demonstrably Secure, Sub sp. Demonstrably Secure/State: Rare)
  • IUCN Status: Least Concern (LC)


The southern fox squirrel, previously classified as Sherman's fox squirrel, is a large rodent member of the Family Sciuridae. It can reach a length up to 27.6 inches (70 centimeters) and a weight between one to three pounds (0.46-1.4 kilograms). This species has an overall color that varies from black to brown with a black head, white ears, and a white snout (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001, Kantola 1992). Fox squirrels are known for their long bushy tails and their strong hind legs which enables them to leap far. 


The diet of southern fox squirrel primarily consists of longleaf pine seeds and turkey oak acorns, but they will also eat fungi, fruit, and buds.

The southern fox squirrel typically has two breeding seasons each year. The winter breeding season is from October to February and the summer breeding season is from April to August (Wooding 1997).  Most nests are made of Spanish moss, pine needles, twigs, and leaves, while a few nests are made within tree cavities (Kantola and Humphrey 1990). Females average one litter per year with an average of 2.3 offspring per litter (Moore 1957; Wooding 1997). Young are weaned at 90 days and sexual maturity is reached at about nine months.


Southern fox squirrel range map

Southern fox squirrels inhabit open, fire-maintained longleaf pine, turkey oak, sandhills, and flatwoods (Florida Natural Areas Inventory 2001; Kantola 1992, Kantola and Humphrey 1990, Moore 1957). This species can be found throughout the peninsula of Florida and up to central Georgia.


Sherman's Fox Squirrel

The main threat to the southern fox squirrel population is the destruction of their habitats.  Habitat loss has been significant as it is estimated that only 10-20% of original southern fox squirrel native habitat is still intact, most of it having been logged, converted to pasture, degraded by lack of fire, or used for agriculture, commercial and residential development. (Bechtold and Knight 1982 as cited in Kantola 1992).  Improperly burned longleaf pine communities also affect the fox squirrel’s population as it prevents longleaf pine seeds from properly reproducing in the bare ground.  This species also has an increased chance of getting hit by a vehicle due to their typically slow gait (locomotion). 

Conservation and Management

In 2018, the southern fox squirrel (then known as the Sherman's fox squirrel) was removed from Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species List as a Species of Special Concern. The species remains part of the FWC's Imperiled Species Management Plan. Under 68A-29.002. F.A.C., Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines remain in effect for this species.

2011 Biological Status Review (BSR)
2017 Biological Status Review (BSR)
Supplemental Information for the BSR


Florida Natural Areas Inventory.  2001.  Field guide to the rare animals of Florida. 

Bechtold, W.A. and H.A. Knight.  1982.  Florida’s forests.  US Department of Agriculture, Forestry Service Resource Bulletin SE 62:1-84

Kantola, A.T. 1992.  Sherman’s fox squirrel Sciurus niger shermani.  Pages 234-241 in S.R. Humphrey (ed.), Rare and endangered biota of Florida.  Vol. I. Mammals.  University Press of Florida.  Gainesville, Florida.

Kantola, A.T. and S.R. Humphrey.  1990.  Habitat use by Sherman’s fox squirrel (Sciurus niger shermani) in Florida.  Journal of Mammalogy 71(3):411-419.

Moore, J.C.  1957.  The natural history of the fox squirrel Sciurus niger shermani.  Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 113:1-71.

Wooding, J.B. 1997. Distribution and population ecology of the fox squirrel in Florida. Ph.D. dissertation. University of Florida.