Monday, December 12, 2011


 A gray squirrel adding leaf insulation to its winter shelter
photo by Jonathan Schechter

The black squirrels of Oakland County are not some kind of rare species.  As a matter of fact
there is no such species as a 'black squirrel'. Black squirrels are in fact a  rather common 
 melanistic variation of our eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis),  the squirrel species that once dominated the great unbroken forests of New England and the Midwest. Some  biologists
 have claimed that nationwide about one of every 10,000 gray squirrels  is black. I think that figure is way, way off.  My guess, maybe 1 in 20 in Oakland County are black and  litters are often mixed with black and gray siblings from the same mom. Being a  black gray squirrel has a great advantage at the dawn of winter: Black fur absorbs heat during the sunny days of a cold winter.  My observations seem to show black squirrels are more common  in pockets of hardwoods that are biologic "islands" cut off from larger woodlands.  And in winter with leaves down we see black squirrels more often than summer since this omniverous forest species flirts with the edge of suburbia and is more than eager to raid your bird feeder.


Anonymous Sakoieta said...

I often see black squirrels in Brantford, Ontario that are black in body but with gray tails and also many that are solid black. More black squirrels here than gray ones.

December 12, 2011 at 5:25 PM 
Blogger Jonathan Schechter said...

When I grew up in Tonawanda (N.Y.) I would always see black squirrels in the park at Niagara Falls Canada.

December 12, 2011 at 5:51 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have also seen them in Ontario, but never in the southern United States.

December 12, 2011 at 9:51 PM 
Blogger Sandman said...

Warren and Dearborn Michigan are full of them, but I never see the grey ones.

December 16, 2011 at 9:57 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I reside in Alabama and they are in the Southside/Hokes Bluff area.

May 31, 2012 at 1:35 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have heard stories from my elderly father-in-law about black squirrels on New Liberty Road Near Hokes Bluff, Alabama. I saw one for myself Sunday October 13, 2013. The Alabama Black Squirrel is not just a tale.

October 16, 2013 at 11:04 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in southeastern Alabama, have been seeing a black squirrel for months on my land. It runs just like a grey fox squirrel. It is a beautiful little animal. I actually got some photos of him this past fall eating pecans under a tree in my backyard.

January 19, 2014 at 3:02 PM 

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