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Discover Nature: Fox and Gray Squirrels Bear Litters

A gray squirrel sits on a corn-cob feeder attached to the trunk of a tree, looking upward.
An Eastern gray squirrel sits next to a feeder. Gray and fox squirrels begin breeding this week in Missouri. Common statewide, watch for these squirrels at feeders and in the woods as they begin preparing to bring a new generation into the world.

This week on Discover Nature, Missouri’s most common squirrel species begin bearing litters.

Eastern gray squirrels are slender and wear a usually gray coat with white on the fringe of the tail and belly. 

Eastern fox squirrels are usually reddish-yellow in color, heavy-bodied and larger than the gray squirrel. 

These squirrels begin mating in late December and January. Pregnancy requires about 45 days, with most litters born in February or March. They mate again in late spring and early summer, giving birth to second litters in July and August. 

Young are hairless at birth, with eyes and ears closed, and well-developed claws. They emerge from nests at six to seven weeks old and are weaned in another week or so. 

Squirrels’ habit of storing nuts in the ground results in the eventual germination of many unrecovered nuts. Thus, they inadvertently plant trees that furnish food and shelter for subsequent squirrel populations and other wildlife, as well as timber of economic value to humans. 

Learn more about fox and gray squirrels with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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