About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Black squirrel with a blonde tail

I have a Squirrel in my yard: head to mid section is Black-- mid section to tail is Brown -- tail is Blonde. Can you explain to me how this happens? What kind is this? I have 2 in my yard.
Gray squirrels can come in coats of many different colors. Although the multi-colored or all black or all gray squirrels look different, they belong to the same species, the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). Most gray squirrels are a mixture of blacks, whites and browns but are tipped with whitish ends that generate the "gray" illusion. Coloration is hereditary, but spontaneous genetic mutations result in black specimens living among gray squirrels or even coats displaying different colored sections or patches.

According to a Penn State University website, black squirrels were more common in the past, when black was an effective camouflage against squirrels' main predators, hawks and owls. When seen from the sky, black coats fade into the shadows. Once people started hunting squirrels from the ground, black coats became a disadvantage. Black stands out against light skies and is easier for hunters to see in woodland than gray.

I have a lot of mixed up squirrels in my yard too. It is fun to see the new color combinations that arrive each year.

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