What types of squirrels can you find in New Mexico?
I have found squirrels cause a range of emotions. Some individuals find them adorable and love watching their crazy antics!
But many people can’t stand having squirrels around, particularly on their bird feeders! These feeding enthusiasts are constantly battling these acrobatic rodents to keep them on the ground and away from their bird food.
- RELATED: 8 PROVEN Ways To Keep Squirrels Off Bird Feeders (UPDATED Guide!)
Regardless of your personal feelings, I think squirrels are interesting to learn about. If you are curious about all the species that can be found near you, please keep reading. 🙂
Below are the 4 types of squirrels that live in New Mexico!
#1. American Red Squirrel
Scientific Name: Tamiasciurus hudsonicus
Average Length (Including tail): 11- 14 inches / 28 – 35.5 cm
Weight: 7.1–8.8 oz / 200–250 g
Lifespan: They experience severe mortality during their first year, as only about 20% of babies survive. For individuals that survive the first year, the average lifespan is still only 2.3 years, with a maximum lifespan of 8 years. Predators include bobcats, coyotes, hawks, owls, foxes, American Martens, and Canadian Lynxes.
The American Red Squirrel is widespread across New Mexico and easy to identify when compared to other squirrel species. As the name suggests, they have a reddish color and white belly that makes them easy to distinguish. Size-wise, they are both MUCH smaller than both gray and fox squirrels but larger than chipmunks.
American Red Squirrel Range Map
These squirrels are primarily found in coniferous forests due to their diet, which consists of seeds from evergreen trees. But they are equally at home in deciduous forests, backyards, parks, and urban areas, where they adjust their diet to eat foods such as berries, bird eggs, acorns, hazelnuts, mushrooms, mice, and sunflower seeds from backyard bird feeding stations. American Red Squirrels even have a sweet tooth and are known to tap maple trees so they can eat the sugar from the sap!
- Learn about my favorite SQUIRREL-PROOF bird feeding pole HERE! (Seriously, squirrels can’t climb up to your feeders – GUARANTEED)
These squirrels are BEST known for their aggressive personality!
Press PLAY to hear the sounds of an American Red Squirrel!
When I go hiking, I almost always see at least one American Red Squirrel, as they are not shy creatures. As soon as I’m spotted, the squirrel typically runs up a tree to sit and then starts making loud chattering noises to alert the whole forest to my presence!
And despite their small size, these squirrels run the show if they show up to your bird feeders. I have personally witnessed these feisty rodents chase away more than FIVE Eastern Gray Squirrels away from my feeding station so that they can have the place to themselves. (Watch the video below to see for yourself!)
Feeding birds is a challenge with these squirrels around!
From a bird feeding perspective, American Red Squirrels present unique challenges if you want to prevent them from eating your birdseed. Here’s why:
- These squirrels are small enough to fit through most caged bird feeders. These feeders are designed to prevent larger squirrels (Eastern Gray, Fox) from fitting through while still allowing small songbirds to eat.
- Many bird feeders have been designed to be weight-sensitive and close if enough weight, like that from a squirrel, sits on the perch. Because American Red Squirrels are so small and light, they don’t force the perch to close on many feeders, which allows them to eat as much as they want.
Damage caused by an American Red Squirrel!
- These feisty squirrels will do almost ANYTHING to get access to where you store your bird food. For example, I keep my seed stored in a shed, either in metal bins or plastic 5-gallon buckets with lids. As you can see from the damage above, American Red Squirrels are the only animals at my house that chew through hard plastic to get to the seed. Luckily, they haven’t figured out how to chew through metal… yet. 🙂
#2. Fox Squirrel
Scientific Name: Sciurus niger
Average Length (Including tail): 17.7 – 27.6 inches / 45 – 70 cm
Weight: 1.1 – 2.2 pounds / 500 – 1000 grams
Lifespan: Captive Fox Squirrels have been known to live up to 18 years. In the wild, their maximum lifespan is 12.6 years for females and 8.6 years for males. However, individuals rarely live that long due to overhunting, disease from mange mites, severe winter weather, or predation from foxes, coyotes, and birds of prey.
Fox Squirrels are the largest tree squirrel in New Mexico.
Fox Squirrel Range Map
These squirrels can adapt to many different habitats. They are most often found in small patches of deciduous forests that include trees that produce their favorite foods, which are acorns, walnuts, pecans, and hickory nuts. To prepare for winter, they hide caches of these nuts all over the place to be eaten later when the weather turns cold.
Unfortunately, Fox Squirrels have been introduced to many locations out west where they are not native, including California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, North Dakota, Washington, New Mexico, British Columbia, and Ontario. Fox Squirrels are putting pressure on native squirrel species due to their ability to outcompete them.
Fox Squirrels seem to thrive around people.
Subsequently, they are commonly found in urban parks and neighborhoods. For example, Fox Squirrels were a regular sight all over the campus (Baldwin-Wallace University) where I went to college, and adoringly loved by both students and faculty!
You will likely see Fox Squirrels foraging on the ground, as they spend much of their time there. But don’t let this fact fool you, since they are still skilled climbers. In addition to scaling trees, they will easily climb a bird feeder pole to get access to birdseed. 🙂
Most Fox Squirrels follow the same coloration, which is a grayish-brown fur coat with orange hair on their belly and on the edge of their tail. But these squirrels have highly variable colorations, depending on location. For example, the Delmarva Fox Squirrel, which is native to several states in the east, is gray on top with a white belly, whitish feet, and a gray tail with white frosting. In the southeast, a subspecies called Sherman’s Fox Squirrels are found with black heads that contrast with a white nose and ears, along with fur coats that range in color from gray to black.
Fox Squirrels are incredible jumpers!
WATCH squirrels jumping about 10 feet to my bird feeders!
They can leap up to 15 feet horizontally. If you don’t want these squirrels on your bird feeders, then you need to remember this fact. Place your feeding station away from places that squirrels can use as a launchpad, such as trees, fences, and structures. On a side note, the squirrels in the video above are Eastern Gray Squirrels, NOT Fox Squirrels. Regardless, I thought it demonstrated my point that these athletic rodents can jump REALLY FAR!
#3. Abert’s Squirrel
Scientific Name: Sciurus aberti
Average Length (Including tail): 18 – 23 inches / 46 to 58 cm
Weight: 19 – 34 oz / 540 – 971 g
The ears on an Abert’s Squirrel, which are also called Tassel-eared Squirrels, are unique, and it’s hard to mistake if you see one. Just look for long tufts of hair on each ear (except that the tufts disappear in summer)! In addition, they have a dark gray coat, pure white underbelly, and a noticeable rusty brown patch of fur on their back. They look a lot like the adorable Eurasian Red Squirrel, except for their color.
Abert’s Squirrels are found in New Mexico, primarily living in coniferous forests close to their favorite tree, the Ponderosa Pine.
Abert’s Squirrel Range Map
Ponderosa Pines play an important role in the life of Abert’s Squirrels.
In fact, these trees provide everything from food to nesting to protection from predators!
While these squirrels eat a wide variety of foods, Ponderosa Pines are their favorite and their primary nutrition throughout the entire year. In warm months, the seeds and buds are consumed. Incredibly, a single squirrel can eat the seeds from up to 75 pine cones per day!
During colder months, Abert’s Squirrels eat the inner bark of the actual tree, in addition to twigs. In winter, on average, about 45 twigs are eaten every day!
The Ponderosa Pine provides such a consistent food source throughout the year, the Abert’s Squirrel rarely stores any food for winter. This behavior is incredibly unique when it comes to squirrels!
Females will build twig nests, which resemble large, messy bird nests, on the branches of Ponderosa Pines. Adults will even use these shelters year-round for nightly protection. These squirrels would use a cavity, but pines rarely have holes big enough for nesting purposes.
Abert’s Squirrels and Ponderosa Pines go hand in hand. These pine trees not only provide food and nesting areas, but their interlocking canopies serve as protection against predators. Animals such as hawks, particularly the Northern Goshawk, hunt these squirrels regularly.
Lastly, these adorable squirrels have a sweet tooth!
In spring, it’s possible to see them licking the sugary sap off the bark of Boxelder Trees, which are related to maples.
#4. Arizona Gray Squirrel
Scientific Name: Sciurus arizonensis
Average Length (Including tail): ~20 inches / ~50 cm
Weight: ~23 oz / ~567 grams
The Arizona Gray Squirrel has a small range and only lives in parts of Arizona and New Mexico. These squirrels are typically found at higher elevations in the mountains. Look for them by rivers in deciduous woods near trees that produce their favorite foods, which are acorns, walnuts, and pine cones.
Arizona Gray Squirrel Range Map
Interestingly, the breeding activity of these squirrels is correlated with the blooming of flowers! These mammals love feasting on flowers, and the nutrition and vitamins inside help sustain the energy demands required for reproduction.
Not much is known about the status of the Arizona Gray Squirrel, as they are shy and hard to study because they live in the mountains. But it’s thought that their population has declined, due to a few reasons.
First, these squirrels, like most animals, have experienced habitat loss. Second, it seems they are being out-competed by the larger Abert’s Squirrel, as it extends its range. Arizona Gray Squirrels are not currently on the Endangered Species List, but they may end up there eventually.
Which of these squirrels have you seen before in New Mexico?
Leave a comment below!