Squirrels - kids love to chase them, power line electricians love to hate them. Try as we may, it is difficult to travel anywhere in Maryland without seeing these bushy tailed mammals.
Did you know Maryland has a squirrel it can call its own? It's the Delmarva fox squirrel, whose large, fluffy tail is the reason for the "fox" in its name. Delmarvas may reach a length of 15 inches and weigh 1 1/2 to 3 pounds, about double the weight of the common gray squirrel. As their name implies, the fox squirrels' historic home is the Delmarva Peninsula, although today they are found primarily in remote areas of Maryland's Eastern Shore.
The Delmarva fox squirrel is pale and easily recognized by its light, steel-gray coat, silvery tail with black edges, and creamy white belly and ears. The stubby-necked Delmarva has short, rounded ears and when running, appears to be wearing little white slippers.
Unlike gray squirrels, which are primarily tree dwellers, Delmarva fox squirrels spend considerable time on the ground and often feed in crop fields. Shy and quiet, the Delmarva is slow in its movements and escapes danger by running across the ground rather than scampering up a tree.
Delmarvas make their homes in hardwood forests along streams and bays and in small wooded areas next to agricultural fields. They like living among oaks, maples, hickories, beeches and pines, where they can easily find their favorite foods - acorns, nuts and seeds.
September and October are active months for squirrels because they are busy hiding acorns and nuts for the winter when food is difficult to find. Delmarvas sometimes hide nuts in tree cavities but most often bury them singly underground. Farmers help provide winter food for fox squirrels by leaving uncut strips of corn and soybeans near wood edges.
The Delmarva fox squirrel once occupied the entire Delmarva Peninsula, into parts of southeastern Pennsylvania and west-central New Jersey. By the early 1900s, lack of habitat and over-hunting shrunk its range to just four Maryland counties on the Eastern Shore. The Delmarva fox squirrel became an endangered species in 1967.
Today the number of Delmarva fox squirrels in the region has increased, thanks to the preservation efforts of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and other state and federal wildlife agencies.
For more information about Delmarva fox squirrels, call the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Division at 410-260-8540, or check out our home page on the Internet at www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/