Tag Archives: Eastern Gray Squirrel

A (RARELY SEEN) FOX SQUIRREL IN GLOUCESTER MASSACHUSETTS??

Rare for Massachusetts that is. This afternoon a very unusual colored squirrel briefly stopped by our garden. He sat atop the fence post, had a quick snack from our neighbor’s black privet berries, then departed as quickly as he arrived. At first glance I thought he was a Red Squirrel, but he was much, much too big. Next thought, perhaps a melanistic Gray Squirrel. Or perhaps a Gray and an American Red (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) had interbred, but that isn’t possible. However, I did learn a Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and a Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) can interbreed. But possibly what we have here is an actual Fox Squirrel, which would be quite uncommon for Massachusetts. I am still researching this. If any of our readers has seen a Fox Squirrel in Massachusetts, please write and let us know. Thank you in advance.

Eating privet berries

Fox Squirrels are diurnal, which means they feed during the day. This little guy stopped by for a snack at about 1:30 in the afternoon. Conversely, Eastern Gray Squirrels are crepuscular, which means they are more active during the early and late hours of the day.

In this year of tree squirrel super abundance, I wonder, too if that could possibly be an explanation for an appearance by a Fox Squirrel; perhaps expanding its territory in search of food.

The coat of a Fox Squirrel comes in many colors, from nearly all black to rust, tawny gold, and gray combinations–like a fox. Gray Squirrels are mostly gray with white bellies. The average size of a Gray Squirrel is 9.1 – 12 inches; the average size of a Fox Squirrel is 10 to 15 inches.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Mystery visitor

Who Ate All the Peaches?

Perhaps you didn’t think much of all the little baby squirrels running about your neighborhood this past summer. We had half a dozen nests on out street, and each nest appeared to have half a dozen babies. Early in the morning I would often see the young families playing in, around, and under our neighbors cars, scampering up and down trees, and leaping about the branches. I wasn’t paying too much attention, until we began to notice large toothy chunks missing from my unripe peaches. Half eaten peaches, still on the branch, along with disappearing fruit, plagued our little tree until by harvest time we had little more than a handful, when usually we have baskets full.

We found the culprit(s) mid-summer, brazenly scurrying and chomping through the peach tree. The squirrels ate all our blueberries, too, and most recently, have been depositing the large green balls of the Black Walnut tree fruits on our front porch.

Why the squirrelnado? During the 2017 growing season there was a bumper crop of acorns, which means many more adults went into winter with a full belly and an ample supply of acorns in their pantries. A greater number than usual survived the winter, which translates to many more baby squirrels in the spring of 2018. This year’s acorn crop has been smaller than average. The squirrels are desperately trying to stockpile food. Not only are they eating foods they don’t normally eat, but they are also exhibiting extremely at risk behavior. Driving along New England highways and byways, you may have observed a great many dead squirrels as both roadkill and laying alongside the road.

If a squirrel runs out in front of your car when traveling at high speed on the highway, it is best not to swerve. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but the squirrels look at the car as a large oncoming predator. By swerving, you confuse the critter, and run the risk of injuring yourself and/or another party.

With far fewer acorns, not as many squirrels will survive the winter. Will we see an upswing in Lyme disease next summer? I imagine so. White-footed Deer Mice and Eastern Chipmunks also feed heavily on acorns and they, along with squirrels, harbor Lyme. This year there are lots of small woodland mammals the ticks can attach themselves too. Next year, not so much. With far fewer wild mammals the ticks will be looking to people and furry pets for their next meal.

Chipmunks are also a Lyme disease vector.

Sociable Squirrel

On my way home from visiting my daughter Liv who lives in Brooklyn, I stopped at several locations along the Connecticut coast where Snowy Owls have recently been sighted. Although no owls materialized, it was super interesting to learn about the diverse range of habitats hosting Snowies during this fantastic Snowy Owl irruption of 2017-2018. Liv and I spent Saturday morning exploring Jamaica Bay wildlife refuge and other habitats along the Brooklyn coastline where Snowies are also spending the winter. Photos to come when I have time to sort through but in the meantime, this funny little squirrel followed me about the Connecticut Audubon Refuge, coming quite close and seemingly wanting to play hide and seek. I played along for a bit and wished I had a peanut in my pocket 🙂