Monday, October 14, 2013

Big Cypress Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger avicennia)

The Big Cypress Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger avicennia) is one of four subspecies of the Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) found in Florida.  Also known locally as the Mangrove Fox Squirrel, it is endemic to southwestern peninsular Florida, in the Immokalee Rise, Big Cypress Swamp and Devil's Garden area of Collier County.

The above map from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service shows the ranges for all four sub-species.
Here's a link to a page about the parent species, Sciurus niger.

Listed as a low density and rare sub-species, it is also under pressure from habitat loss with increasing residential development in the area east of Naples, Florida.  All four sub-species are protected animals in Florida and may not be hunted.

A tree squirrel, the Big Cypress ssp. builds platform nests in hardwood and pine trees, cabbage palms and large clumps of bromeliads.  In bald cypress trees it constructs nests out of moss and sticks.  Here a litter of 2-4 young are raised per year.  Weaned after 2-3 months, the Big Cypress squirrels are known to live for 10 or more years. 
If you are interested in a scholarly article, here's one from Southeastern Naturalist, a journal published by the Eagle Hill Institute.

Southeastern Naturalist article

Eagle Hill Institute

Forage feeders, the Big Cypress Fox Squirrels seem to prefer Slash Pine trees as their main food source.  The above animal was observed with Cabbage Palm nuts which she cached on the ground.
It looked like she was scent marking the buried nuts, but perhaps the marking was of territory.

Here's a link to a great article by Collier County Environmental Services.

Big Cypress Fox Squirrel

These photos were taken at Clyde Butcher's Gallery at milepost 53, along the Tamiami Trail in Ochopee.  A great place to visit....friends and fellow naturalists Ben and Phil Gilbert from the UK
and I spent a couple of days at the cottage behind the gallery and saw lots of the Big Cypress.


There's lots to see in the Big Cypress, the western Everglades.  Here's a video link to watch....and be sure to visit soon.

1 comment:

  1. In the background above, the luminous, looming Pond Cypress hammock has not yet leafed out.The Wet Prairie grassland in the foreground...Fast Growing Tree Nursery