Hunting fox squirrels in legal on many areas in South Carolina, but there are restrictions on some WMAs, according to SCDNR’s Billy Dukes.

“Because of the much-fewer numbers of fox squirrels, there are some WMAs where they are not allowed to be harvested,” Dukes said. “However, fox squirrels are not uncommon in the right habitat and are part of the squirrel-hunting opportunity for many hunters on most public lands. The best advice is to always check before hunting fox squirrels on WMAs, particularly SCDNR lands.”

Fox squirrels are closely related to grays, Dukes said, and are considered to be the most variably colored tree squirrels in the world. In South Carolina, fox squirrels are approximately twice the size of gray squirrels, ranging from 20 to 26 inches long, nose to tail, with adults weighing between two and 2 ½ pounds.

Duke said the widespread loss of preferred habitat has been detrimental to fox squirrels throughout the Southeast. Practices such as large-scale monoculture replacement of longleaf pine by loblolly pine, shortened stand rotation, loss of hardwoods and fire suppression have contributed to habitat loss. Changes in agribusiness and increased urban sprawl have also replaced suitable fox squirrel habitat.

“In South Carolina, fox squirrels are strongly associated with mature pine forests and mature pine-hardwood forests,” Dukes said. “Fox squirrels prefer woodland habitats with an open herbaceous understory and patchy shrub cover. Prescribed fire in pine woodlands benefits fox squirrels by creating and maintaining this condition.

“Where present, forest stands dominated by live oak can be a seasonally important habitat type. Small agricultural fields and wildlife food plots are often utilized when located within the normal home range of fox squirrels.”