Why is the Squirrel in My Backyard More Brown Than the Others?
You have probably wondered why the squirrel in your backyard is more brown than the rest of the pack. This common gray squirrel weighs 16 to 24 ounces, varies in color from white to brown, and ranges from eight to 11 inches in length. This rodent makes a sound similar to a duck’s call and has a bushy tail with a luxurious puff of fur. It uses this tail for warmth, communication, and balance.
If you are a home owner and have discovered a gray squirrel in your backyard, it is important to know how to get rid of them. This species of squirrel can be difficult to get rid of due to its habit of living inside of buildings. They are known for chewing through electrical lines and tearing up the insulation in attics. These animals can also access a building if it has rotted louvers and small holes.
Although gray squirrels are browner than their black and white counterparts, their coloring differs depending on their range. The gray squirrel is native to the eastern U.S., but has become an invasive species in other countries. In Europe, this species has displaces and outcompetes its native cousin, the Eurasian Red Squirrel. The gray squirrel is more colorful than its brown cousins.
A gray squirrel’s diet is diverse. They consume several kinds of nuts, including oak acorns, hickory nuts, beechnuts, and walnuts. They also eat berries, fruits, and seeds. Gray squirrels are rarely found to live past the age of five. Some types of predators may attack them. Hawks and owls are among their predators. Domestic cats also feed on gray squirrels.
Most squirrels in my yard are a uniform color, though the ones in my backyard are browner than their neighbors. It’s probably not a disease. The squirrels’ coats are naturally varying. Most are brown/gray on top and white below, and are considered ‘wild type’. The variation in color is a result of the squirrel’s production of melanin, which occurs in two types. Different combinations of melanin produce different hues, which are then accentuated by the banding of their hair.
Red squirrels, however, are not fully red. Instead, their coats are gray-brown to rusty red, and contrast sharply with their stark white bodies. Red squirrels do not hibernate, but are active during the cold season. They feed on nuts and other hard-husked fruits and nuts and will sometimes sputter and flick their tails when they are angry.
There are two species of gray squirrels in North America: eastern gray squirrels and western fox squirrels. The eastern gray squirrel is larger and rust-colored, and is the only species with frosty white bellies. This species is also called the ‘foxy squirrel’ because its coloration resembles that of other species. This species is native to the eastern United States, but has invaded countries in Asia and Europe, displaces native squirrels and competes with native populations.
Other species of squirrels
Most people in my neighborhood don’t notice the squirrels’ brown and gray colorations, but there are a few other species of these animals in my backyard that are white. These animals are called leucistic. Some scientists believe that occasionally a squirrel is born without any melanin pigment in its hair cells, which determines the color of their fur. White squirrels have little pigment in their fur, while blond ones have a moderate amount of it. Some white squirrel colonies are short-lived, but one colony in Olney, Ill., has been around since the 1800s.
There are several types of squirrels in Los Angeles. There are ground squirrels and tree squirrels. They have similar appearances, but the primary difference between them is their homes and nesting locations. Ground squirrels and tree squirrels are both common. In Los Angeles, the two species are common. Western gray squirrels are the most common in the city. They are small and brown with a red belly.
While many species of squirrels are omnivorous, there are also many that specialize in certain foods. Eastern Gray Squirrels are omnivorous, but they still prefer nuts and seeds. They will hide their food in a variety of places as winter approaches, as they need these foods to survive. These squirrels are also very timid around humans, and they tend to have one litter a year.
What is the reason the squirrel in my backyard is more brown than the others?
There are a few reasons why this may be the case.
The squirrel could be a different subspecies of squirrel that is naturally more brown.
Or the squirrel could be the same species but its coat has changed color due to factors such as age illness or diet.
How can I tell if the squirrel is a different subspecies?
A good way to determine if the squirrel is a different subspecies is by its size shape and coloring.
Compare the squirrel in your backyard to pictures of different squirrel subspecies online or in a field guide.
What if the squirrel is the same species but its coat has changed color?
If the squirrel is the same species but its coat has changed color it could be due to age illness or diet.
For example young squirrels typically have lighter fur while older squirrels tend to have darker fur.
Similarly a squirrel with a poor diet may have duller fur than a squirrel with a good diet.
Lastly certain illnesses can also cause a squirrel’s fur to change color.
How can I tell if the squirrel is young?
Young squirrels typically have lighter fur than adults.
You can also look for other indicators of youth such as a smaller size or softer fur.
How can I tell if the squirrel is old?
Older squirrels typically have darker fur than younger ones.
The fur may also be grayer in color.
You can also look for other indicators of age such as a larger size or more wrinkles on the face.
How can I tell if the squirrel has a poor diet?
A squirrel with a poor diet may have duller fur than a squirrel with a good diet.
You can also look for other indicators of a poor diet such as a thinner body or less fur.
How can I tell if the squirrel has a good diet?
A squirrel with a good diet may have shinier fur than a squirrel with a poor diet.
You can also look for other indicators of a good diet such as a plumper body or more fur.
What illnesses can cause a squirrel’s fur to change color?
Some illnesses that can cause a squirrel’s fur to change color include mange ringworm and psoriasis.
What is mange?
Mange is a skin disease caused by mites.
It can cause the fur to fall out and the skin to become irritated.
What is ringworm?
Ringworm is a fungal infection that can cause the fur to fall out.
The skin may also become red and irritated.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a skin condition that can cause the skin to become scaly and dry.
It typically does not affect the fur.
Can diet or illness cause a squirrel’s fur to change back to its original color?
In most cases no.
Once a squirrel’s fur has changed color it is generally permanent.
What should I do if I notice a squirrel with abnormal fur coloring?
If you notice a squirrel with abnormal fur coloring you should contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center or veterinarian.
They will be able to help you determine if the squirrel is ill and needs medical treatment.
Is it harmful to touch a squirrel with abnormal fur coloring?
In most cases no.
However you should always use caution when approaching any wild animal.
If you are concerned about the possibility of contracting a disease you can wear gloves when handling the squirrel.
What should I do if I find a dead squirrel with abnormal fur coloring?
If you find a dead squirrel with abnormal fur coloring you should contact your local health department.
They will be able to properly dispose of the squirrel and test it for any diseases.
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.