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Discover Nature: Fox and Gray Squirrels Bear Litters

A gray squirrel looks up from a snow-covered forest floor.
An Eastern gray squirrel forages on a snow-covered forest floor. Gray and fox squirrels begin bearing litters this week in Missouri.

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. 

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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