As many of you may not know, yesterday was Squirrel Appreciation Day, or as my sister says, a day not to shoot the squirrels off the bird feeders with a BB gun. Recently our feeders and yard has been over run with squirrels. On one day, at one time, I counted 2 fox squirrels, 3 gray squirrels, 2 black squirrels, and 1 red squirrel.
The Eastern fox squirrel, also known as Bryant’s fox squirrel, is the largest of the tree squirrels native to Michigan. They have excellent vision, hearing, and sense of smell. Have you ever wondered why some squirrels have very scruffy tails? Its because the mother sometimes pulls out her tail hair to line her nest with! The fox squirrel has many color variations but the most common is a gray/brown back and tail with a brown/orange belly. Some may have black markings. I have identified one of our fox squirrels as one having a black tail tip. He is the master at extracting seed from our bird feeder.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel is a tree squirrel that belongs in the genus Sciurus. Sciurus is derived from two Greek words, skia, meaning shadow, and oura, meaning tail. The name hints that the squirrel sits in the shadow of its tail. The gray squirrel is mostly gray though black individuals are quite common in some areas and white ones have been seen. The white ears in the one pictured above is from the rump to head molt that happens in the fall. Brown or white tufts appear on the ears after this molt. In the spring they do a head to tail molt. Like other squirrels, gray squirrels cache their food. Sometimes, if they feel like they are being watched, they pretend to bury their food, when really they still have it in their mouth.
The American red squirrel is one of the three species of tree squirrel classified as a pine squirrel. They are gray/brown with a red line on their back, tail, and sometimes head. Their belly is white ad they have a white eye ring. American red squirrels eat a variety mushrooms, including some that are deadly to us.
The black squirrel is actually a melanistic subgroup of the Eastern gray squirrel or fox squirrel. They exist where ever the gray and fox squirrels live. Black squirrels can be jet black or brown/black depending on the gene that they inherited from their parents. Black squirrels are more abundant in the northern regions of the gray squirrel’s range because of their increased cold tolerance. The black squirrel looses less heat then the gray squirrels. Although black squirrels are predominate in many areas of North America, their over all rarity (1 in 10,000), causes some towns and cities to take pride in their black squirrel population, including Detroit and Lansing, Michigan.
Hope you enjoyed this informative post and are now more considerate of a your annoying, seed hogging friends.