Gray Squirrel, Brown Squirrel?
Gray squirrel, gray squirrel, swish your bushy tail . . . (famous children's song)
Just about every young child around here learns that song in preschool. But are all gray squirrels really gray? I have noticed some color variations in the past few years, and that got me wondering.
The other day I noticed an unusual-looking squirrel around my house. Its front half is gray, the standard color around here. But the back half is a rusty brown, which is not the usual color. This is not the first time I have seen unusual coloration in the neighborhood squirrels. A number of years ago we had white or creamy-colored squirrels in the area. I decided to find out more about squirrel color variation.
Here's what I found. The Eastern gray squirrel, native to the eastern and midwestern US, is usually gray. But it can also be brown, black, or red (reddish brown), or white. Or, as I have seen, a mix of two colors. The squirrels of different colors are known as color morphs—they are the same species, with color variations.And regular old gray squirrels change color with the seasons, wearing a darker gray coat in the summer and a silvery coat in the winter.
The Eastern gray squirrel is a common pest, because it likes the warmth of houses. I know, because I have had squirrels in my eaves a number of times at my house.
For more information Squirrel World, A Squirrel Place, and the Massachusetts Audobon Society have lots of fascinating facts about squirrels. For example, squirrels dash back and forth across a street when a car is coming because they are trying to confuse the "larger animal." Unfortunately for squirrels this technique is particularly unsuccessful for survival.
Let's take a look at some photos of different Eastern gray squirrels of different colors.These are all the same species.