Thursday, January 27, 2011

Squirrelly Colors


While up in Brainerd we enjoyed watching the antics of the resident black squirrel.

Black squirrels are not a separate species of squirrel, rather they're most often a color variation of the Eastern Gray Squirrel (EGS).  In fact, you can have albino, melanistic (black), and gray squirrels all in one litter.  I've only seen that happen twice at WRC, but seeing all three in one tiny litter is a pretty amazing sight.

Looking closely at these photos, I actually began wondering if this might be a melanistic Fox Squirrel rather than a gray.  See how orange its sides and face highlights are? And how large it is? This points toward it being a Fox Squirrel, which are quite common in Minnesota, although you tend to see more of them outside of the Twin Cities metro area.

Research revealed that there is a relatively high incidence of melanism in Fox Squirrels, especially in the southeast United States where they're more common. If we could actually measure the squirrel we'd know for sure: EGS max out around 20" in length whereas Fox Squirrels average 24."  Since we can't measure it, I've showed the photo to a few other experts and all agreed it's most likely a melanistic Fox Squirrel.

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