A story about an outrageously large squirrel turned out to be mostly a tall tail.
Last week, numerous news outlets wrote about a photo of a rather hefty-looking squirrel in Robeson County, North Carolina. But it wasn’t the photo alone that was attracting so much attention, it was the squirrel’s alleged size: 2 feet tall, just a few inches shorter than an average 1-year-old human child.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at the prospect of massive squirrels), the squirrel isn’t quite that big.
“The squirrel is NOT 2 feet tall,” a spokesperson for North Carolina’s Candid Critters, the group that originally posted the image on Facebook, told HuffPost in an email. “That is way out of range for the species.”
North Carolina’s Candid Critters ― a collaboration between multiple science and research organizations ― runs a survey of North Carolina wildlife via motion sensor cameras. The group posted the photo of the squirrel, which had come from one of its cameras, on Nov. 16. Candid Critters identified the animal on Facebook as an eastern fox squirrel, but the post didn’t mention its height.
However, the spokesperson did offer some insight about how all the confusion may have started, telling HuffPost, “The animal is likely around 2 feet LONG, nose to tail.”
In other words, while the squirrel ― tail included ― might reach 2 feet when stretched out on the ground on all fours, it would not reach 2 feet in height standing on its back legs.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission lists similar measurements for fox squirrels, stating that the average length is between 20 and 26 inches.
Multiple resources on squirrel length, including guides from the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Cornell University, specify that these length measurements include the tail.
So how tall is the squirrel? University of Arizona professor and squirrel expert John Koprowski weighed in.
“Even standing on the tip toes of the hind feet [a fox squirrel is] not going to quite hit 1.5 feet,” he told HuffPost in an email.
All that said, fox squirrels are still big, relative to the gray or red squirrels most people in the U.S. are used to seeing. Gray squirrels average between 15 and 20 inches in length, while red squirrels are generally between 11 and 14 inches long.
This story has been updated to include an estimate of the squirrel’s height.