There are several types of squirrels in the United States. Ground squirrels, flying squirrels, and tree squirrels being the most common. These highly adaptable rodents are great at making the most of their environments and will often feed on a wide variety of foods. We have chosen 11 species from the 3 main types of squirrels to highlight here today, including both the smallest and the largest North American natives.
11 Types of squirrels found in the United States
1. Flying Squirrels
Scientific genus: Glaucomys
The Southern Flying Squirrel is a small nocturnal species that is native to most of the eastern half of the United States. From Texas, Florida, Maine, Wisconsin, and everywhere in between.
Weighing in at only 2-3 oz., these small rodents have evolved flaps of skin from their front paws to their back paws. These flaps allow the rodents to “fly” around the forests they call home.
While it isn’t technically flying, the squirrels will run to the top of trees, jump out, and spread their skin flaps to help them glide to their next destination. The longest recorded glide of a Southern Flying Squirrel was 200ft, but they usually make much smaller leaps.
The northern flying squirrel is not as widespread in the contiguous United States as the southern variety. Northern flying squirrels can be found in several northern states surrounding the Great Lakes, areas of the Pacific Northwest, New England, most of Canada, and into Alaska.
Humboldt’s flying squirrel is the third and final type of flying squirrel found in North America and the United States. This species is only found in Southern British Columbia and parts of California.
Here are some interesting facts about flying squirrels if you want to learn more about them.
2. Fox Squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus niger
The Fox Squirrel, also known as the Eastern or Bryant’s Fox Squirrel, is the largest species of squirrel in North America. They weigh 1-3 pounds and are typically red, gray, brown, or occasionally black.
Native to parts of Canada and Mexico as well as the eastern half of the United States, including Texas, Missouri, and Florida, and New York.
Fox Squirrels live in forested areas where they feed on mostly fungi, fruit, seeds, and nuts, but will occasionally also eat bird eggs.
3. Arctic Ground Squirrel
Scientific name: Urocitellus parryii
Arctic Ground Squirrels range over most of Alaska. They are very unique squirrels, hibernating 7-8 months of the year. Not only do they hibernate, but during hibernation, they perform a behavior called supercooling.
Supercooling is where an animal will drop its temperature below freezing during hibernation, and then begin shivering for 15-20 minutes until it warms back up to its normal temperature. In the case of arctic ground squirrels, this is 98 degrees. They then start to slowly cool again. It’s thought that this is an effective method of preserving energy during a long hibernation.
Arctic ground squirrels are a very important part of the food chain, being the main source of food for several birds of prey, bears, and foxes.
4. American Red Squirrel
Scientific name: Tamiascuriurus hudsonicus
Red squirrels are found in parts of Canada, the northern part of the United States, throughout the Rocky and the Appalachian Mountains, and as far south as Georgia.
They prefer coniferous forests due to their preference for the seeds and nuts of pine trees. They will also eat fruit, eggs, and berries.
While these squirrels aren’t particularly communal, they do live near each other and communicate when they sense predators. American red squirrels will also take in the babies of other squirrels if they become orphaned.
5. California Ground Squirrel
Scientific name: Otospermophilus beecheyi
California ground squirrels, also known as Beechey ground squirrels, are common in California, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington.
They prefer to live in open areas such as parks and fields where they feed on flowers, seeds, nuts, berries, and insects.
In some areas, these squirrels are considered pests as they will beg for food from humans and frequently feed on ornamental plants.
6. Eastern Gray Squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus carolinensis
Eastern Gray Squirrels are found in the eastern half of Canada and the United States. They are found as far west as the Mississippi River and as far south as Florida.
These squirrels are very social and not at all territorial unless they are defending their nests. Like red squirrels, grays will also take in orphans of their species if need be.
Eastern gray squirrels feed mainly on nuts, seeds, grasses, tree bark, berries, flowers, plant bulbs, and crops like corn. Many people consider these squirrels to be a nuisance as they will raid bird feeders.
7. Douglas Squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus douglasii
Douglas Squirrels are native to the pine forests of the Pacific Northwest such as California, Oregon, Washington, and part of Canada.
These squirrels weigh in at about 8oz and feed on a diet of seeds and nuts. They are very vocal and alert often warning other squirrels and birds of predators in the area.
Douglas Squirrels are generally grayish in color with a chestnut-colored belly, but they do have slightly duller colors to help them blend in during winter months.
8. Abert’s Squirrel
Scientific name: Sciurus aberti
Also known as the tassel-eared squirrel, the Abert’s squirrel is arguably the cutest species on the list.
Their preferred food is the nuts from the Ponderosa Pine found in their native range in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and parts of Wyoming. In addition to nuts, they also feed on the bark and buds of the trees and on a fungus that lives on the trees as well.
While the Abert’s squirrel has a very distinctive coat in the colder months, they lose their cute ear tufts and fluffy coats in the summer and sport very short brownish-gray hair.
9. Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel
Scientific name: Ictidomys tridecemlineatus
Thirteen-lined ground squirrels are native to the central United States and Canada, including parts of Ohio, Arizona, Nebraska, and Kansas to name a few.
These ground squirrels prefer open grasslands where they feed on grass, seeds, leaves, small birds, lizards, and insects.
They weigh between 5-9oz and have a very unique coat that sports both spots and stripes.
10. Harris’s Antelope Ground Squirrel
Scientific name: Ammospermophilus harrisii
Harris’s antelope ground squirrels are found in New Mexico, Arizona, and New Mexico. Here they live mainly in deserts where they prefer homes near heavy vegetation.
Feeding mainly on cactus plants, insects, and seeds, these squirrels weigh roughly 4oz and have an average lifespan of 2-3 years.
Unlike most squirrels on this list, Harris’s antelope squirrels live mostly solitary lives, only coming together during the breeding season.
11. Least Chipmunk
Scientific name: Tamias minimus
The least chipmunk is a small striped-squirrel found throughout most of North America, including parts of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Here they live near the edges of boreal and temperate forests.
Least chipmunks are the smallest species of chipmunks, weighing just 1.5-2oz. They eat seeds, nuts, berries, insects, birds, and lizards, grasses, and fungi and their large cheek pouches allow them to store and carry larger quantities of food with them to their nests.
Chipmunks are solitary creatures that come together only during the breeding season, but mothers are very attentive to their young and care for them for up to 6 weeks before they go off on their own to find new territories. 3