Header that says "Squirrels" with an image of a squirrel

Squirrels are members of the rodent family. They can climb trees and jump between them using their large tails to help with balance. Squirrels see in black and white and can detect movement well. They are mainly active in the early morning and late afternoon. Pennsylvania is home to five species of squirrel including: the gray squirrel, the fox squirrel, the red squirrel, the northern flying squirrel, and the southern flying squirrel.

Gray Squirrels

AppearanceGray squirrels are silvery-gray on their backs and off-white along their bellies.
LengthAbout 18 to 20 inches in length with an additional 9 to 10 inch tail
Weight1 to 1.5 pounds
HabitatGray squirrels often build leaf nests or tree dens in wooded areas, near their food supplies.
FoodAcorns, nuts from hickory, walnut, and beech trees, mushrooms, berries, corn, wild cherry, pine seeds, black gum fruit, and dogwood berries
PredatorsHawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and snakes
Location in PennsylvaniaStatewide, with more in north-central Pennsylvania
Extra factsAlbinism (white coloration) is rare in gray squirrels and melanism (black coloration) is common.
Gray squirrels help contribute to forest growth when they do not retrieve all of the nuts they buried for winter.
They usually live around 2 to 3 years but can live longer.

Fox Squirrels

AppearanceFox squirrels have reddish-gray fur along their backs and orange-brown fur along their bellies.
LengthRoughly 21 inches with an additional 10 inches for their tails
WeightAbout 2 pounds
HabitatFox squirrels are often in open, park-like woods that do not have a lot of ground cover.
FoodSimilar to gray squirrels
Location in PennsylvaniaWestern and southern Pennsylvania
Extra factsFox squirrels are slower, quieter, and more sluggish than gray squirrels.
They are sometimes bothered by fleas, chiggers, and mosquitos, and even the occasional tape worm.

Red Squirrels

AppearanceIn the summer, red squirrels have rusty brown fur. In the winter, they turn more gray and develop tufts of fur on their ears.
LengthHalf the size of gray squirrels
WeightAbout 5.5 ounces
HabitatRed squirrels live in similar habitats to their gray and fox squirrel counterparts. Unlike other squirrels, they will also sometimes live in small holes at the base of trees.
FoodSimilar to gray and fox squirrels
Location in PennsylvaniaStatewide
Extra factsRed squirrels are very vocal and very territorial.

Southern Flying Squirrels

AppearanceSouthern flying squirrels have soft, velvety fur that is grayish brown on their backs and pearly white on their bellies. Unlike other types of squirrels, flying squirrels also have a loose flap of skin between their fore and hind legs on both sides of their bodies. When they jump, flying squirrels stretch out that flap of skin and use it to glide from tree to tree or tree to ground.
LengthAbout 8 to 10 inches long including a 3 to 5 inch tail
Weight1.5 to 3 ounces
HabitatSouthern flying squirrels are often found in wooded areas with nut-producing hardwood trees. They like to nest in hollow tree limbs and cavities made by woodpeckers.
FoodFlying squirrels eat similarly to other squirrels: nuts, seeds, tree blossoms, sap, fruit, fungi, and berries. Unlike other squirrels, flying squirrels are also more predatory. They will eat beetles, spiders, insect larvae, moths, birds and their eggs, and small mice and shrews.
Location in PennsylvaniaStatewide
Extra factsFlying squirrels can travel up to 40 yards in a downward direction.
They use their tails like a rudder.
Flying squirrels are nocturnal.

Northern Flying Squirrels

AppearanceNorthern flying squirrels look similar to their southern counterparts, but they have darker and browner fur.
LengthAbout 8 to 10 inches long including a 3 to 5 inch tail
Weight1.5 to 3 ounces
HabitatNorthern flying squirrels favor woods with conifer trees, lots of old growth, and northern hardwoods.
FoodNorthern flying squirrels feed heavily on lichen and fungi, along with buds, fruits, seeds, and insects.
Location in PennsylvaniaMountains in northern Pennsylvania
Extra factsNorthern flying squirrels are considered a threatened species in Pennsylvania. The decline in their population is thought to be related to loss of old-growth forests.


Squirrels can enter into houses and other buildings to make their homes. They leave lots of waste, stored food like nuts, and can possibly chew on wires that can cause a fire.


Squirrels can be shot with firearms, and trapped with both lethal and live catch type traps. Entry holes must then be repaired on the buildings.

For more information about squirrels, check out the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s wildlife notes.