Three squirrels at once

March 23, 2015 • 4:07 pm

Shall we end today with a display of both interspecies and inter-morph amity? This picture of three squirrels was sent to me by reader Paul (I don’t know where he lives):

I thought you might enjoy a photo of red, gray & black squirrels living together relatively peacefully under our bird feeders in our front “yard” this morning.

Red squirrel: American red squirrelTamiasciurus hudsonicus

Gray squirrel: Eastern gray squirrel: Sciurus carolinensis (the ones I feed)

Black morph: almost certainly a mutant of the Eastern gray squirrel. This one, since it’s wholly black, is probably homozygous (has two copies) for a gene that cannot make orange (pheomelanin) pigment. Squirrels with one copy of the gene are brown-black.



Here’s what I take to be a heterozygote: a brown-black squirrel:


And here’s Matthew with his new kitten Harry:


28 thoughts on “Three squirrels at once

  1. Awww, Harry’s about to nod off;-)

    I think we have all three kinds of squirrels in our back yard, too (southern Ontario).

  2. All the squirrels eating my peanuts and sunflower seeds are black. Far as I know all our squirrels are black.

    From Sudbury, ON.

    1. Here in my southern Ontario backyard we have 4 regular visitors . A black, a grey and 2 reds.
      They usually do not come at the same time to feed. When more than one is present there is a lot of chattering and tail wagging.

  3. The Eastern Gray Squirrels around here have an agouti coat pattern similar to that of laboratory mouse strains such as 129/Sv. I’d expect squirrels, as rodents, to have coat color genes very similar to those of mice, so I’m kind of perplexed by the Anglia Ruskin “Black Squirrel Project” page. If my assumptions (and they are just assumptions) are correct, a “wild-type,” apparently agouti Eastern Gray Squirrel would have genotype A/A;B/B or A/a;B/b. A black (non agouti, in mouse genetics parlance) squirrel would have genotype a/a;B/B, a solid brown squirrel would be a/a;b/b, and a brown-black squirrel (cinnamon in mouse parlance) would be A/-;b/b. Of course there are many other genes that influence coat color, but those are the basics of agouti/non agouti and black/brown.

    All the genotypes should be in italics, but I can’t remember how to do that. :-S

    1. On second thought, the predominant squirrel species here in South Texas is probably the Fox Squirrel (same genus as the Eastern Gray Squirrel), which has a yellowish underside and therefore looks more like an agouti lab mouse.

  4. I like squirrels. My mum wants to wipe them all out, and won’t be persuaded that they’re not vermin who need to be exterminated. Her back garden is the scene of mass squirricide. And I have to dispose of the corpses. How can I talk her round? I’m sick of fishing their sad little bodies from the water barrel. It’s heartbreaking.

    1. Don’t kill them, and don’t cooperate with the squirricide. Thwart her attempts to kill them. I cannot see someone doing this: squirrels value their lives (look at my video of young ones playing) and they do not want to die. To kill them for some trivial depradations is ridiculous.

      1. I’ve been trying to talk her around since she started. I’ve stuffed the entry points to the house which is how they were getting into the kitchen, so she can’t use that as a reason any more. I certainly don’t get involved and I’ve suggested taking the ‘humane’ traps somewhere distant and letting them out but apparently this is illegal. I really don’t think police shock troops are going to helicopter in if she lets them out in the countryside but she’s intransigent – I’ve finally dealt with all her pragmatic reasons so the fact that she’s still trapping and killing them points to something irrational and, I hate to say it, because normally she’s a very fair person, cruel.

    2. What is it that the squirrels are doing that so aggravates your mum? My dad was frustrated with squirrels eating everything in the bird feeders and ruining the nuts in the pecan trees (we Texans cannot live without pecans, I think). He bought some bird feeders that are (fairly) squirrel-proof, and also puts out treats especially for the squirrels, away from the bird feeders. That’s the strategy I decided on for my own backyard, though it’s not as large a space.

      There’s almost nothing to be done about squirrels ruining pecans though; in drought years they’ll chew on the green nuts for the moisture, and greatly reduce your pecan harvest. Sometimes squirrels will dig up plants from pots or gardens, but usually they can be discouraged from doing this by a liberal sprinkling of cayenne pepper (buy a large container of it at Costco).

      My dad brings walnuts for the squirrels in a neighborhood park where he and my mom like to walk. Most of the squirrels at the park seemed obese and rather complacent to me when I visited, so maybe he’s subconsciously trying to give them sciurid arteriosclerosis.

      1. My dad gets mad at the squirrels eating the blossoms off his cherry tree. His neighbourhood is overrun with them as they have no animal that harms them. At least his neighbour doesn’t poison them like he poisons every living thing in his garden with pesticides. I don’t understand people who think their garden is lovely when it is flowers among dead things.

        1. Since it sounds like your dad has one cherry tree, it wouldn’t be hard to wrap it in that black plastic mesh. Would keep the birds from eating all the cherries too.

      2. She chucks the humane traps, squirrel and all, into a large bin full of water. She’s only caught about five or six, and I’ve admonished her every time, but I think I need to stop pussyfooting around and flat out stop her. Break the traps or something. It really isn’t on.

  5. The black version of the eastern grey squirrels are much more timid. I’ve read that this is a confirmed trait & I’ve witnessed it at my feeder.

    The red squirrels are usually angry. They don’t like the company of other squirrels and rarely tolerate it. I often hear them in trees making their angry red squirrel sound. 🙂 I like that they are the little guys but seem to be the most ferocious – kinda like how I’d imagine leprechauns would be if they existed.

  6. Now that we have established that our squirrels are the Fox and not the eastern grey, we do have many blacks as well. Have not seen the brown or brown/black but will be on the lookout for that.

    That mother must have something very wrong with her — who murders squirrels. Get a trap and catch them and move them out of her sight.

    1. I was unaware that Fox Squirrels had a black morph.

      Be aware that “Gray” Squirrels also have a color morph that looks like Fox Squirrels.

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