by Dave Godwin, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks
Black or melanistic squirrels are of particular interest to some Mississippi small game hunters. Both species of tree squirrels which occur within Mississippi, the eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and the fox squirrel (S. niger), can exhibit the black color phase. However, most black squirrels in Mississippi are fox squirrels, particularly those found in the Delta.
Two distinct subspecies of fox squirrels are commonly found in Mississippi. The "hill country fox squirrel" (S. n. bachmani) is common to upland areas across much of Mississippi and is generally characterized by reddish pelage with a black mask and white nose, ears and paws. 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 generally lacking the white appendage coloration found on the hill country fox squirrel.
While black phase gray squirrels and hill country fox squirrels are occasionally reported throughout Mississippi, hunters interested in bagging a black squirrel should focus their efforts on the Delta. The good news is that this region of the Magnolia State offers a vast array of public hunting opportunity! The U.S. Forest Service, MDWFP, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers all own land in the region that is open to public hunting! As always, be sure to become familiar with area-specific regulations before hunting on these or other public lands. Hunters should concentrate on hardwood areas that provide hard mast which is an important food source during the fall and winter months.