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‘I thought it was a cat in a tree.’ It was actually one of NC’s large fox squirrels

How big is too big for a squirrel? Check out this photo of a fox squirrel posted this week by the NC Department of Natural Resources. Facebook screenshot
How big is too big for a squirrel? Check out this photo of a fox squirrel posted this week by the NC Department of Natural Resources. Facebook screenshot

An image of what seemed to be an extremely fat squirrel was posted on social media this week by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, accompanied by a discomforting revelation that it was normal size for the state’s seldom-seen fox squirrels.

“The fox squirrel is the largest tree squirrel in North Carolina, nearly twice the size of the more common gray squirrel,” said the state’s Facebook post.

How big do they get?

“When I saw one the first time, I thought it was a cat in the tree!” posted Ken West on the wildlife commission’s Facebook page.

Fox squirrels grow up to 26 inches long (from head to tail), weigh nearly 3 pounds, and have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity, state biologists say.

The state photo, taken by a private photographer, marked the second time in recent months that images of a fox squirrel appeared on social media. In November, a state-backed camera trap program, known as Candid Critters, got national attention when it released images of a fox squirrel in eastern Robeson County.

State biologist say the squirrels live are primarily in forests on North Carolina’s southern Coastal Plain and are typically giving birth this time of year.

They are solitary, small in number and “are often located in isolated pockets of habitat,” state officials say.

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