The Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger), or Ardilla Zorro in Spanish, is not a native squirrel to southern California. It is believed the fox squirrel was introduced to the Los Angeles area sometime around 1904 when Civil War and Spanish-American War veterans from Tennessee or the Mississippi Valley brought them to the area when they moved to a veterans home in Los Angeles.
Fox squirrels can adapt to a wide variety of forest habitats but prefer forests of mixed trees like oak woodlands and pine forests. However, they have adapted very well to urban environments and have thrived in Balboa Park in San Diego. While their numbers increase, their population has gradually radiated to the edges of the Park bordering local neighborhoods. They den in hollow cavities in trees and feed on acorns, nuts, and eucalyptus seeds as well as the seeds from our various backyard fruit trees.
In other areas of California the non-native fox squirrel has out-competed native gray squirrels, affecting the delicate balance of those natural communities.
To get involved with the Southern California Squirrel Survey, visit iNaturalist.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: David C. Smith