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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:

  • Grayish body with some black, white or brown fur
  • Whitish belly
  • Some gray squirrels are completely black. This is called melanism.
  • Bushy tail that varies in color from pale gray to brownish
  • Can grow to 20 inches long and weigh 1.5 pounds

Habitat:

  • Lives in mixed hardwood forests, as well as parks, yards and other wooded areas in cities, towns and suburbs
  • Creates a permanent den within a tree cavity or in a nest 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:

  • Feeds 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
  • Will also eat frogs, insects, bird eggs and farm crops such as corn and wheat
  • Stores nuts and seeds at the end of summer to eat throughout the winter

Predators:

  • Preyed upon by minks, weasels, bobcats, raptors, red foxes and other predatory animals
  • Emits a warning call to let other squirrels know predators are near
  • Hard to capture because it can climb and jump among trees quickly and easily

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Mates twice per year, in December-February and again in May-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
  • 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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