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Eastern Gray Squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis

Gray squirrels feed mostly on nuts and acorns from oak, beech, walnut and hickory trees. (Smudge 9000/Flickr)
Gray squirrels feed mostly on nuts and acorns from oak, beech, walnut and hickory trees. (Smudge 9000/Flickr)

The eastern gray squirrel is a grayish-brown, bushy-tailed rodent that lives in forests, parks and backyards throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

The eastern gray squirrel has a grayish body with some black, white or brown fur and a whitish belly. Some gray squirrels are completely black; this is called melanism. The squirrels have bushy tails that vary in color from pale gray to brownish. Eastern gray squirrels can grow to 20 inches long and weigh 1.5 pounds.

Habitat:

Mixed hardwood forests, as well as parks, yards and other wooded areas in cities, towns and suburbs. Creates permanent dens within tree cavities or in nests of leaves and twigs on a tree crotch.

Range:

Found throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Each squirrel has a home range of no more than 5 acres.

Feeding:

Eastern gray squirrels feed mostly on nuts and acorns from oak, beech, walnut and hickory trees, as well as seeds, fruits, bulbs and flowers from other plants and trees. They will also eat frogs, insects, bird eggs and farm crops such as corn and wheat. They store nuts and seeds at the end of summer to eat throughout the winter.

Predators:

Minks, weasels, bobcats, raptors, red foxes and other predatory animals prey on eastern gray squirrels. The squirrels will emit a warning call to let other squirrels know predators are near. They are hard to capture because they can climb and jump among trees quickly and easily.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Mating occurs twice per year, in December to February and again in May to June. Females nest alone while pregnant. After 44 days, the female gives birth to 2-3 blind, naked young. The female cares for her young until they are weaned at about 10 weeks old. Males reach sexual maturity at 11 months old, while females mature at about 1.25 years old. Eastern gray squirrles can live up to 12 years in the wild.

Other Facts:

  • In September, some young gray squirrels will leave their current area to find a new place to live and establish their own home range
  • The gray squirrel’s bushy tail has a number of uses, including balance, warmth and protection from the weather, and communicating with other squirrels

Sources and Additional Information:

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