Gray squirrels and Fox squirrels are the two sub species that are the most abundant therefore are the most hunted. The best hunting time for squirrels is the first three daylight hours of the morning, afternoon activity is minimal.
Gray squirrels are quick agile squirrels, weighing up to 1 1/2 pounds. Gray squirrels prefer dense stands of trees in deeper woods. Grays are most active at first light, hunters should be in gray squirrel woods at dawn and hunt the first two hours for best results.
Fox squirrels are hefty, slow moving, and weighing up to 3 pounds. Fox squirrels are typically found in more open woods, usually near the forest edge. When hunting strictly for fox squirrels, you can hit the woods an hour later and find best results the second and third hour after sunrise.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is a tree squirrel that is native to the eastern to midwestern United States and the eastern provinces of Canada. The species name carolinensis refers to the Carolinas, where they were first recorded by zoologists and are still extremely common.
As its name suggests, the Eastern Gray Squirrel's fur is predominantly gray, but it can have a reddish tinge. Its belly is white. They have a large bushy tail. Particularly in urban situations where predation risk is reduced, both albino and melanistic forms of the Eastern Gray Squirrel are quite often found.
Like many members of the family Sciuridae, the Eastern Gray Squirrel is a scatter-hoarder; that is, it hoards food in numerous small caches for recovery later. Some of these caches (especially those made near the site of a sudden abundance of food) are retrieved within hours or days for re-burial in a more secure site. Others are not retrieved until months later. It has been estimated that each squirrel makes several thousand caches each season.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel makes a variety of noises, including a loud screeching, a "buck buck buck" sound and a chattering, often followed by "kyukyukyuuuu". They make these noises to communicate with other gray squirrels, and sometimes they make noises during mating.
These squirrels build a type of nest, known as a drey, in the forks of trees. These consist mainly of dry leaves and twigs. Sometimes they will also attempt to build a nest in the attic or exterior walls of houses, often to the great annoyance and frustration of the homeowner.
They also invade bird feeders for millet and sunflower seeds, but safflower is often used instead, as they seem to have no taste for it. Some seed is sold with hot pepper coating, because only mammals such as squirrels can taste its capsaicin, while the birds cannot. Mixing hot pepper flakes into regular birdseed works well as a squirrel deterrent.
They have also been known to dig up bulbs from gardens. Their reputation for these habits has led some to call them "tree rats" or "rats with fuzzy tails".
Predators include hawks, mustelids, skunks, raccoons, snakes and owls. On occasion, this squirrel may lose part of its tail while escaping a predator.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel is common throughout most of its natural range and wherever it has been introduced. It readily becomes tolerant of humans and learns to take food left or offered by picnickers.
The Eastern Gray has also been introduced into a variety of locations on the west coast of North America, including San Francisco and the Peninsula area of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties south of the city.
The Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) is the largest species of tree squirrels native to North America. The Fox Squirrel's natural range extends throughout the eastern United States, excluding New England, north into the southern prairie provinces of Canada, and west to the Dakotas, Colorado, and Texas.
They have been introduced into Northern California. While very versatile in their habitat choices, fox squirrels are most often found in forest patches of 400,000 square metres or less with an open understory, or in urban neighborhoods with trees. They thrive best among trees such as oak, hickory, walnut and pine that produce winter-storable foods like nuts. A subspecies native to several eastern U.S. states, the Delmarva fox squirrel, Sciurus niger cinereus, is a listed endangered species.
Individuals tend to be smaller in the west. There are three distinct geographical phases in coloration: in most areas the animals are brown-grey to brown-yellow, while in eastern regions such as the Appalachians there are more strikingly-patterned dark brown and black squirrels with white bands on the face and tail. In the south can be found isolated communities with uniform black coats.
Fox Squirrels are strictly diurnal, non-territorial, and spend more of their time on the ground than most other tree squirrels. They construct two types of homes, depending on the season--summer dreys are often little more than platforms of sticks high in the branches of trees, while winter dens are usually hollowed out of tree trunks by a succession of occupants over as many as 30 years. Cohabitation of these dens is not uncommon, particularly among breeding pairs.
There are two breeding seasons, one peaking in December and the other in June. The young are blind, without fur and helpless at birth. They become independent at about three months and maturity is reached after one year. Their maximum life expectancy is 12.6 years for females and 8.6 years for males. Humans, hawks, snakes and bobcats prey on these squirrels.