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Time & Life

Black Squirrel!

Black_squirrel Yehuda (who is currently in Canada) included this picture on a recent blog post... this is precisely what I've been looking for all around the world, although alas not yet successfully. It's a grey squirrel, but with black fur. There are populations in several places (including Canada), but I have not been lucky enough to find one yet. I must find an excuse to visit Ontario again... If anyone else has black squirrels in their part of the world, please let me know!

UPDATE: I have started a new blog for black squirrel sightings and other sciurophile nonsense. Please go to Shadowtail to report any black squirrels in your area! Thank you!

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There are quite a few black squirrels in Middletown, CT, USA. I like to think that they expand their population by grabbing other squirrels and turning them black. There are more and more of them every day! O_O

Are black squirrels particularly rare? What makes them special?

Hi, sorry for suddently dropping by; I found this entry via a search about black squirrels. I didn't know these were actually gray squirrels with black fur! :) Anyway, since, I'm here, I just wanted to say that there are lots of them in Québec City, and some in Montréal as well.
(Incidentally, I have some pictures and videos over at my blog if you're interested, and some more on my computer I can share if you're hunting for specific pictures!)

I used to see a black squirrel on my way home from work, so I know SW Pennsylvania has them as well.

Such swift comments! Squirrels apparently much more popular than philosophy or games. :)

Foster: black squirrels are grey squirrels whose fur happens to be completely black. Like albinism, which I have seen in grey squirrels in London, the condition is caused by a genetic variation, in this case leading to a condition called melanism.

There is a gene which controls the banding of fur, and one variation of this gene results in all-black fur. The rate of incidence of this sort of condition is very low (about the same as albinism), but whereas the gene for albinism tends to be recessive, the gene for melanism can be dominant, that is, black squirrels can give birth to more black squirrels.

This means that if the squirrels in a particularly area like the "black" grey squirrel (and grey squirrels seem quite unprejudiced in such matters) you can get a population of black squirrels - which I had already learned about in Canada, but which I didn't see while I was squirrel-watching in Montreal.

I hypothesise that in urban populations of grey squirrels, the black fur is no worse a camouflage than grey fur, and thus we may well see cities where the "black" grey squirrels are more numerous than greys, or replace them entirely, although I don't think the black fur will provide so much of an advantage that the blacks will eventually replace the greys.

Thanks for the info!

PotR: you were lucky to find that with a websearch as I had only just posted it. Perhaps this is your lucky month. ;)

Corvus: either your sighting was a one-off incidence of melanism, or the black-furred squirrels are invading from Canada! Montreal... Toronto... Middletown... Philadelphia - next they march on Washington. :)

I'm a resident of London, Ontario (Canada), and we have a park (Victoria) here that's notoriously full of black squirrels. In fact, for a long time I had no idea that they were so rare outside of Ontario. You can usually see a number of them during lunch hour on a cool day, especially if you bring some bread or nuts -- they'll generally take them from your hand if you offer.

Also of note are the White Squirrels of Exeter (also Ontario). I think they're not true albinos, as they still have pigment in their eyes -- http://www.whitesquirrels.ca/ (awful site, but it has pictures)

Andy: thanks so much for this! I greatly appreciate knowing precisely where I can find these squirrel oddities in Canada. It sounds as if there can also be albinism on a dominant gene, which is exciting news to me!

Thanks again!

Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, has a black squirrel population. Aggressive buggers.

Local folklore is that they were lab animals that someone released, and they took over the squirrel population in the area.

Thanks for the info, Adam! Once again, black squirrels sighted just across the border from Canada - the squirrels are most definitely invading the United States! :)

In the Western suburbs of Philadelphia, we've got them. I've got 2 in my backyard. Imho, they're quite cute (for squirrels).

Like Andy, I had no idea that black squirrels were so uncommon elsewhere. As I recall, they were by far the most common kind in Ottawa; the area of Toronto where I now reside seems to have a more balanced mix of greys and blacks.

Hi again,

I went to Victoria Park earlier today, and got some pictures of some of the black squirrels there:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/berdandy/tags/blacksquirrel/

I figured you'd like the shots. They're so familiar with people that they frequently got too close to me for my zoom lens to work. In fact, I had a hard time getting the shot of the one on the bench because he kept jumping down to beg food from me.

Thanks for the link to the photos, Andy! Urban greys get quite bold about asking for food, since so many people come and feed them so often - I'm sure the blacks inherit much of that bold temperament.

Thanks again!

I just found this blog and have beenworking my way back. Just wanted to say that the Bronx Zoo in New York is covered with Black Squirels. Me and my girlfriend went a few months ago and we saw dozens of them.

Thanks for the report, M. Nicolai! It definitely seems the black squirrel population in North America originated in Canada and has been spreading south ever since.

I saw my first black squirrel at my daughter's house on Christmas Day in Ellington, CT. I never knew they existed! Have never seen one before.

I live in eastern North Carolina. We definately have them. Not in abundance but I've lieved here for 13 years and always have seen them in Southport but have recently seen them in Carolina Beach and just today saw a large one in Wilmington North Carolina near the Cape Fear River. He was large and beautiful and caught my eye immediately.

Tammy & L: thanks for reporting! I might look into setting up a map where people can contribute their black squirrel sightings... don't know how easy this would be. :)

North Carolina is the report from furthest south so far... The Black Squirrel invasion is well underway! :D

I live in tennessee and have 3 black squirrels in my back yard. I have pictures too.

Justice: black squirrels in Tennessee? This would be the furthest south of any sightings! Can you provide me a link to your photos, and the name of your town? Very interested in seeing this!

I have had a black squirrel in my backyard for about three weeks now. We don't see it everyday but have sighted it four or five times. We live in Massachusetts about 30 miles south of Boston.

Thanks Judy! All information about the black squirrel distribution is appreciated. I will try and find a map tool to track this at some point - if anyone has a suggestion, let me know - thanks in advance!

Sorry, I mis-spoke. We are 30 miles NORTH of Boston, near Salem Mass on Route 95 headed toward NH.

Judy

Cool, you learn something new every day, (black) grey squirrels. I live in Ontario and have several black as well as grey squirrels that visit my yard every day to feed on the seeds and peanuts that I put out for the birds. I even took a video of one taking a rain shower on my back deck, you should check it out at http://carran2c.blogspot.com it's really cute.

carran2: thanks for the comment - the video of the black squirrel in the rain is charmingly cute. :)

I too saw my lst Black squirel in Wilmington,NC in woods along the Cape Fear River.. I turned around and drove up to it carefully, camera in hand hoping to capture this rare beast when he turned and scurried up a tree, as most squirels do, to my dismay, but I did notice that his ears were gray and stood out from the rest of his body...Both body and tail were black.. I will try to photograph it and will check from time to time....

I'm sitting here in my office at home in Brookline Ma. We have a black squirrel that comes by almost everyday in the backyard. He's a bit fiesty and loves to bully the other grey squirrels. Of course they are only play fighting. It's a lot of fun to watch!

We had a news report in the UK that "our darling red squirrels" are under even more threat now that black squirrels have turned up on our shores.

Apparently the black squirrels are competing heavily with the grey squirrels. Maybe it's harder on the greys as they already ousted the reds from most of the place, and the reds are relatively safe in the small zones they still occupy.

So, you never know, Chris, you may see them back in ol' Blighty!

I saw a black squirrel May 22, 2008 in rural Jefferson Co. Georgia. He ran across the highway in front of my car. This is the first one I have ever seen.

Hi. I just ran into this website and just wanted to let you know. I am originally from New HAmpshire and the black squrriel runs crazy up there. I just moved to the DC Metro area and work at a hotel in the city. We have a resident black squrriel we have named "Thomas" who is outside of our hotel everyday. If you come into the Nation's Capital, stop by the River Inn on 25th Street NW and you will see him.

I saw a black in Wilm, NC along River Rd.....near the CFRiver! I thought the face was beige and the body had more fur than a typical squirrel. The hair was jet black and was larger than usual. Thanks for the post!
E

Brad: North Carolina? So close to Tennessee where I was last year. It really does seem as if they are radiating south and west from an original point somewhere in Canada. Thanks for sharing your news! If you get a picture, please drop by with a link, as I'd love to see it.

Emily: Also reporting from North Carolina... You say the face was beige, so your sighting wasn't black throughout? Most black squirrels have fur that is all black, so I wonder about your sighting. Wish you had a picture. ;) Thanks for letting me know!

Jenn: Squirrels play fight a lot. It can get very rowdy but they never, never, injure each other. It seems to me that there are at least two ways they play at this - the first is a kind of game of "Chicken" when they run at each other, and the other is a straight game of chase (which they especially love to play during the mating season!). Thanks for your comment!

Neil: We have black squirrels in the UK now and they're outcompeting the greys? This is odd news to me. I'll have to investigate... As you suggest here, the blacks aren't an extra problem to the reds (the red squirrels live in pine forest, which the greys aren't so well adapted for) but they are for the greys - they are, essentially, the same species (fur colour not withstanding). Thanks for the tip!

Lynn: you are the first report of a black squirrel in Georgia! That's the furthest south we have heard so far. Thanks for sharing this with me!

Victoria: If only I had read your comment before my last trip to DC! Rest assured, I will follow your lead next time I'm in that neck of the woods. Many thanks!

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Thanks everyone! I must say, this remains one of the most popular posts I have put up in terms of the number of comments it attracts. :)

I'm always interested in where people are sighting black (or white) squirrels, so keep them coming!

A lot of large (fox squirrel black phase?) around Pleasantville, NY. Also a few black squirrels have been spotted in Darien, CT.

Karen: thanks for the info! I *still* haven't seen a fox squirrel... Actually, I think I *did* see the tail of a fox squirrel just outside of Denver as it was disappearing over a fence, but it would have been nice to see the whole animal! :)

Keep the black squirrel reports coming!

I saw a pretty black squirrel today in Bedford, Massachusetts. (About 16 miles NW of Boston).

Thanks Tania! There's no doubt the Black Squirrels have taken over MA. :P Keep those Black Squirrel sightings coming!

For the first time in 32 years I have one in my back yard. Groveland Ma. Essex County

Thanks for the report, Jim! I really must try and find an interactive map tool that I can use to track these sightings... If anyone knows of a suitable service online let me know (preferably one which is open to easy contribution by multiple people).

Thanks again!

We saw a large black squirrel just this past weekend in Griffin, Georgia, as well as a different one in Hartwell, Georgia.

Jim: thanks for reporting this sighting! Georgia is the furthest south we've had so far, and you're the second report from Georgia so far.

Where will be the first Gulf Coast sighting, I wonder...? :)

I just woke up at 7:30am and looked in the backyard and saw this little black squirrel running around and snapped a picture. I was surfing the net to see if anyone had reported one on the Jersey Shore yet. For the record I live in Toms River, New Jersey (NJ). Couldn't find any sight interested in tracking them so I figued I'd drop some kind of record of their location. I also snapped a picture of it which you can see by going to the address below. I'm naming mine Lil' Nuk Nuk.


http://i381.photobucket.com/albums/oo258/jimmyjames5177/DSC06859.jpg

http://i381.photobucket.com/albums/oo258/
jimmyjames5177/DSC06859.jpg

Sorry that's the address for the pic. It got cut off in the above post.

My partner and I were responding to a call, Paramedic service, in Athen's township in Pennsylvania and had a black squirrel run across the road in front of us. We weren't sure at first,since we both had never seen one, but it was obvious a black squirrel.

Hi there are many stories about these black squirrels. Here in Ct they seem to come from a park in westfield, ma that the owner got 6 of them as a gift and let them lose in the park. I just saw my first one today in granby, ct. there are about 10,000 grey squirrels to 1 black squirrel. just to show how rare they are.

There are lots of black squirrels living in Cromwell Hills, along the top of the hill by the curve to Clubhouse 2. They have been there for many years. This is a condo complex in Cromwell CT.

Thanks for the reports! I've been inundated with black squirrel sightings recently so I'm forced to narrow my domain of interest to the boundaries of their current range.

I'll post about this in February and close comments to this post then.

Thanks for participating!

there are black squirrels in Arlington heights MA - I have seen 4 at one time!

Hi, We have a black squirel in our back yard once in a while in Natick, Ma. about 20 miles west of Boston.

Hello,

I live in Northeast Alabama and have a black squirrel in my possession right now that I am rehabilitating for release back into the wild. I am a moderator of a website for squirrel lovers that you might enjoy...

www.thesquirrelboard.com

We would appreciate a link back to us!

Always good to find another squirrel lover.

I'm a NY state licensed wildlife rehabilitator in the Bronx, borough of New York City. I've raised and released 5 black Eastern grey squirrels, so far. While the Bronx and southern Westchester County have always had a small number of melanistic (black) squirrels, it seems to me that their numbers are increasing. People may also not realize that a grey mom can have a litter of mixed grey and black babies. There is also a variation that some of us call "sable": grey squirrels who are chestnut brown, not black. Their faces are dark and 'smudgy' looking, and their bellies might be white or light brown to orange. Sometimes they have a dark stripe going down the middle of their bellies. This variation will occur in the same litter with "normal" grey colored babies. Whatever color, they're all squirrelies and we love 'em!

Thanks for your comment, Island Rehabber! I'm tracking the black squirrel population in the US and elsewhere and I appreciate all information. It's clear that this is a new gene variant and not a one-off mutation (like albino squirrels) and the numbers are on the rise.

I appreciate your report of "sable" squirrels as well - do you have a picture somewhere?

Best wishes!

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