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The fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) is a relatively large North American squirrel with a long, bushy tail and very variable colouration. Its scientific name, niger, means ‘black’ and refers to the black fur of the first individual to be described. However, the common name ‘fox squirrel’ refers to the yellowish-red, fox-like colour that is also common in this species. The colouration of the fox squirrel varies both within and between different populations. The upperparts of the body can range from grey to buffy-grey, black or tawny brown, often with a grizzled appearance, while the underparts can be white to reddish-brown, yellowish, cinnamon or pale grey. The top of the head is usually black, and some individuals have a white to creamy-white nose and ears. The fox squirrel’s feet may vary from buff to whitish or orange-brown and its tail can be pale grey or a mixture of black and reddish-brown, often with a buffy or tawny underside. The male and female fox squirrel are similar in appearance. In winter, this species is coloured similarly to in summer, but its ears may become more tufted and the soles of its feet often become densely furred. All-black (melanistic) individuals are quite common, especially in the south of the eastern fox squirrel’s range. The fox squirrel has flexible ankle joints which allow it to rotate its feet by 180 degrees as it descends tree trunks head-first. The fox squirrel builds large nests out of twigs and leaves, which it uses for shelter and to rear its young. To see it through the winter, the fox squirrel buries nuts in the ground to feed on later.

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