by Dave Godwin and Rick Hamrick, MS Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks
Two game species of squirrels occur within Mississippi, the eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and the fox squirrel (S. niger). The gray squirrel is also referred to as the "cat squirrel" due to its cat-like call. The fox squirrel is often called the "red squirrel" which leads to some confusion since there is a true "red squirrel" (Tamiasciurus sp.) found in the northeastern and western states. The southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) is more active at night and is not a game species.
The gray squirrel has a head and body approximately 8 to 10 inches in length and generally weighs just over 1 pound. They are normally grayish in color, although albino and black specimens do occur. Most black squirrels in Mississippi are fox squirrels, although black gray squirrels are relatively common in some local areas of northern states.
The fox squirrel is significantly larger than the gray squirrel, with adults weighing approximately 2.5 pounds and the head and body length reaching 10 to 15 inches. Two subspecies of fox squirrels are commonly found in Mississippi. The "hill country fox squirrel" (S. n. bachmani) is found in suitable, upland habitats across much of Mississippi and is characterized by a black mast and white nose, ears and paws. In general, the hill country fox squirrel populations are declining due to changes in land use and management. The "Delta fox squirrel" (S. n. subauratus) is found in the western portion of the state, primarily within the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. The Delta fox squirrel has 2 common color phases: one is a glossy black phase and the other is a reddish phase that lacks the white appendage coloration found on the hill country fox squirrel.