What Color Is Squirrel Fur?
If you are wondering what color is squirrel fur, you’ve come to the right place! Grey and American red squirrels both have white and brown fur. While Eastern gray and fox squirrels have black fur, their fur has a reddish sheen. This article will explain the differences in fur color between these two species. And if you’re still curious, here are some examples of squirrels with different fur colors.
Grey squirrels have a blend of black, white, and brown fur
There are a few main differences between a Black Squirrel and a Grey Squirrel. Black squirrels have much darker fur, which may help them stay hidden in dark forests, while the dark-furred Grey Squirrel appears more regal. The main clues for identifying a Grey Squirrel include their size, markings, and activity patterns. They are larger than Red Squirrels and Eastern Chipmunks.
Despite their different appearances, both types have distinct characteristics. The black pelt is characteristic of their northern range, whereas the grey pelt is a more distinctive trait of the eastern species. Grey squirrels are more commonly seen in northern areas, but can also be found in colder areas. These creatures weigh around one and a half pounds, and measure between 17 1/4 to 18 1/4 inches in length.
The gray squirrel is a diurnal animal that spends most of its life in trees. They have a long bushy tail that is a good decoy for predators and serves as a balance for climbing trees. Gray squirrels rarely reach adulthood and are often eaten by hawks, domestic cats, and bobcats. You may also spot a gray squirrel at a bird feeder.
American red squirrels have a blend of white, brown, and gray fur
Red squirrels are small rodents with an orange-red fur. They have large, dark eyes and thick white eye-rings. The American red squirrel is 11 to 13 inches long, and weighs about 5-8 ounces. They are smaller than other types of squirrel, and their fur is brownish-red or grayish-red, with a white belly and chest. They are also a bit more slender than other types of squirrels.
Although they are mostly solitary, they do live in groups, usually with their young. Their dens are shared by more than one squirrel, which is common during cold weather. Both species are territorial, though reds tend to make more noise. Reds communicate with each other by chatter and screeching, and their territories overlap with each other. They spend much of their time inactive in their nests, but they spend part of each day grooming their fur. They go to bed early, curling into a ball before sundown.
Eastern gray squirrels have a mutation that makes their fur black
If you’ve ever wondered why the eastern gray squirrels have such strikingly black fur, you’re not alone. In fact, almost all mammal species have the same mutation causing their fur to be black – it’s called melanistic or albinistic. Unlike their gray counterparts, these black-furred cousins are not aggressive and are not territorial. They do, however, defend their den trees and nursing females will fight to protect them.
The color variation in squirrels is the result of a genetic mutation in the MC1R gene. In other words, the squirrel’s coat turns black when it’s overproduced eumelanin. According to Helen McRobie and colleagues, jet-black squirrels have a mutation that causes them to lose a part of their MC1R protein. The mutant gene locks on melanocytes and causes them to produce only eumelanin.
Eastern fox squirrels have a mutation that makes their fur reddish tinge/sheen
The reddish tinge/sheep in the fur of Eastern fox squirrels is due to an uncommon gene that makes their coats darker than those of their gray cousins. The gene is called Rx, which is present in small numbers of fox squirrels, but is absent in gray squirrels. The mutation is called Xcm and has been associated with an increased risk of death by poisoning. This mutation makes eastern fox squirrels more vulnerable to rabies.
Researchers in the United Kingdom have recorded more than six thousand cases of melanistic greys. These cases are not uncommon, with some estimates reaching up to 25,000 individuals. In fact, only 1 in 330 greys are black. According to a recent study by Helen McRobie, the underlying cause for melananism in greys is a shortening of the melanocortin 1 receptor.
Jessica Watson is a PHD holder from the University of Washington. She studied behavior and interaction between squirrels and has presented her research in several wildlife conferences including TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg.