Eastern Gray Squirrel

While Red Squirrels prefer conifers, the Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) prefers mature deciduous trees that produce a good food crop…  Hickory, walnut, maple or beech.  Being rather adaptable, Eastern Grays can be happy out in the woods, or in your backyard, provided these trees are abundant enough.

Eastern Gray Squirrel by Marg MakeUpAnID
Total Length
: 17-20  inches
Tail Length: 7-10 inches
Weight: 12-25 ounces
Average Lifespan:  2 years or less

Like chipmunks and red squirrels, Gray Squirrels cache food for winter.  Unlike the smaller squirrels, however, Grays bury nuts singly, scattered.  In addition to nuts, they will eat mushrooms, insects, seeds, buds, flowers, and fruits.

They rarely travel more than 300 yards from their nest tree which is preferably a 12-inch deep cavity in the trunk, especially for winter shelter and for raising babies.  If no cavities are available, a loose nest may be built on a sturdy branch from twigs still bearing leaves.

Black Squirrel by Tom LeBlanc

A totally black melanistic phase of the Eastern Gray Squirrel is not uncommon.  Though it is the same species, many folks refer to it as Black Squirrel.

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16 thoughts on “Eastern Gray Squirrel

  1. So, am I understanding you correctly that the black coloration is only a phase? That a squirrel that is black will not remain black for it’s entire life span?

    It’s funny that for most of my life, I’d never seen a black squirrel, even though I spend countless hours in the woods. I began working at my present workplace about two years ago and one of the first observations I made there was the presence of a black squirrel that scurries around the yard and the parking lot. Of course, there are an abundance of large red oak trees nearby. That probably explains why that is ‘his turf’. Thanks, Jen !!

  2. @ David: Well, here’s the thing… sometimes biologist use the term phase to indicate a portion of an animal’s life… like Goldfinches have their winter and summer phases of color. But the term color phase can also mean a group of animals that all have similar color or markings, or it can even mean one individual with a particular color marking. If a Gray Squirrel, is born black, it will stay black.

  3. I’ve never seen a black squirrel in all my years in New England. I did learn not long ago that the squirrel remembers where it stasthed it’s nuts up to 90% of the time!!!

  4. Growing up in the Parkland of Manitoba we only ever saw Red Squirrels, until they suddenly appeared about 30 years ago. They seemed to prefer abandoned farm yards with graineries that were still in use.

  5. I’ve got one in my yard now that has a red tinge, I’ve got both red and gray here and this looks like a cross. I’ve not found anything about a red phase.

  6. I have lived in New Jersey since 1954 and saw an all Black-Gray Squirrel for the first ever time today. I have raised baby squirrels and have spent countless hours in the woods– never have I even seen a partial black -Gray Squirrel before. White-Silver-Dark Gray, but never Black. How rare are they ? what a magnificent sight.

  7. Thought I was seeing things when a black squirrel scurried through a neighbor’s yard. I’ve only seen him a couple times since, but another neighbor also saw him (her?). This one has a reddish cast to it’s tail in the right sunlight. I am in Poughkeepsie, NY (between NYC and Albany).

  8. We have many black squirrels in our yard.There has been one black squirrel here since we moved in 8 years ago.We call her mama squirrel.We know its her because she also has a pure white spot the size of a quarter on her back.One year she had 4 babies in a tree outside our kitchen window.2 were grey and 2 were black.They were so much fun to watch!

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