Mammals of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Red Squirrel - Tamiasciurus hudsonicus
Sciuridae Members:
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Photo by: Marcus Simpson and Marilyn Westphal
Distribution In NC, it is strictly found in the mountain region, and apparently does not occur in adjacent Piedmont ranges such as the South Mountains. Several records well into the Piedmont are open to question or are likely released individuals; however, it does range well into the Piedmont in VA. There is a specimen from Wake County, far east of the normal range -- presumably a wandering individual or a released individual.

A very wide range from coast to coast, occurring over most of AK and Canada east to Labrador, and then south to the northern United States; in this country, it ranges far to the south in the Rockies and the Appalachians, but is scarce in non-mountainous regions.
Abundance Fairly common to common, though declining -- especially in the far southwestern counties, where seemingly quite scarce now south and west of Swain County. Lee et al. (1982) state "Often abundant and conspicuous at high elevations." Webster et al. (1985) say that it is "abundant in mountainous habitats"; however, that does not seem to be the case in recent years. Perhaps the near total loss of Canada Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) to the hemlock woolly adelgid has helped contribute to the decline in numbers of the squirrel.
Seasonal Occurrence Active all year.
Habitat Favors cool coniferous or mixed forests -- spruce-fir, spruce-hardwoods, or (formerly) hemlock-hardwoods. Also can occur in white pine stands, typically where mixed with hardwoods. Cool, moist sites are favored over dry sites.
See also Habitat Account for General Montane Mesic Forests
Behavior Active during the day. Very noisy, making many sounds, with a long ratchet-ing trill/rattle being characteristic. As a result, it is often called "boomer". They have varied nest locations. Some are in tree cavities and hollows, whereas others are ball nests along limbs. Some squirrels even use burrows below ground. They are quite territorial, more so than other squirrel species.
Comments Though not well documented, the species does not seem to be abundant in most places in the mountains today. The death of most hemlock trees cannot but hurt local populations of Red Squirrels, as hemlock trees were a major feature of many population's habitat in the Appalachians. Fortunately, because it is noisy and active during the day, it easily becomes familiar to the layman and is one of the most frequently seen mammals in the higher elevations.
Origin Native
NC List Official
State Rank S4
State Status
Global Rank G5
Federal Status
subspecies Tamiasciurus hudsonicus abieticola
other_comName American Red Squirrel
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all database records for species in that county.