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Mexican Gray Squirrel (Sciurus aureogaster)



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The Mexican Gray Squirrel

The Mexican Gray Squirrel (Sciurus aureogaster), also known as the Mexican Red-Bellied Squirrel, is a species of tree squirrel. Squirrels are found in all parts of the world, and there are about 230 separate species, 28 of them being tree squirrels.

Mexican Gray Squirrels are found in Guatemala, eastern and southern Mexico, and have been introduced into Florida. They are most active in the morning, foraging for food, and are found most often in the tops of trees, moving easily on the branches. They are found in forests most often in tropical or deciduous. Tree squirrels can be found in both humid and dry conditions. A close relative of the Mexican Gray Squirrel often builds dens in the hollows of trees or will build a dome-shaped enclosure for themselves on the branches of trees. They often have a favorite tree that they will use for these dens but will also have dens in less favored trees so that they can escape from predators.

Mexican Gray Squirrels are covered with gray and white fur with a reddish underbelly. They can also sometimes be black. They usually reach lengths of 16.5-22 inches (42-55 cm) and have a large bushy tail that is usually 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) long. Many tree squirrels shed their fur twice a year and shed their tail fur once a year. They have small ears and eyes and strong teeth that are used to pry open the hard outer shells of nuts.

The primary food source of the Mexican Gray Squirrel is fruit, especially papaya, coconut, and sargentís palms. It will, however, browse on other plants and nuts when fruit is not available. Other tree squirrels have often been noted to eat nuts, especially acorns and chestnuts. At the turn of the century when there was an abundance of American chestnut trees, there were a lot more tree squirrels that would migrate en mass to reach outlying food sources.

Little is known about the mating and breeding cycles of the Mexican Gray Squirrel, aside from the fact that they bear litters of one to two young at any time of year. The young squirrels can be either typical gray or black. A very close relative, however, the Eastern Gray Squirrel, has been noted to breed in late winter or early spring and then repeat the cycle again in early summer. The gestational period is typically 45 days. These squirrels keep their young in a den in the treetops. Once the early spring litter is raised and about ready to try and survive on their own, the mother will travel to a new den to bear the new litter and will leave her old den for the juvenile squirrels to occupy.

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Bibliography:
Squirrel. Encarta Encyclopedia, © 2000.
NSiS: Florida Wildlife - Squirrels. Accessed on 08/26/04 at http://www.nsis.org/wildlife/mamm/squirrel.html.
Sciurus aureogaster. Accessed on 08/26/04 at http://www.vivanatura.org/Sciurus%20aureogaster.html.
Rodentia; Sciuridae; Sciurus: Tree Squirrels. Accessed on 08/26/04 at http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/rodentia/rodentia.sciuridae.sciurus.html.


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