Eastern Gray Squirrel
Eastern gray squirrels are a secretive species popular for their discrete behavior, especially when it comes to food. These tree squirrels do not hibernate.
|Scientific Name||Sciurus carolinensis|
|Also Known as||Gray or grey squirrel|
|Description||Color: Gray and brown body, white belly|
Head to Body: 9.1-11.8 in (23-30 cm)
Tail length: 7.5-9.8 in (19-25 cm)
Weight: 14-21 oz (400-600 g)
|Distribution||Eastern North America|
|Habitat||Dense woodland, hickory and oak forests, coniferous forests|
|Subspecies||1. S. c. carolinensis|
2. S. c. extimus
3. S. c. fuliginosus
4. S. c. hypophaeus
5. S. c. pennsylvanicus
|Sound & Communication||Low-pitched ‘mehr, mehr, mehr’, for warding off predators emits “quaa” “kuk” call, the purring sound is “muk muk”|
|Lifespan||In the wild: 6-12 years |
In captivity: Around 20 years
|Diet||Berries, tree buds, tree bark, nuts, acorns, and seeds|
|Adaptations||1. Its sharp teeth are adapted to break nuts and hard seeds|
2. Its ability to jump from one tree to another is an adaptation to hide and run from predators
|Predators||Raccoons, snakes, feral cats, weasels, foxes, dogs, owls, and African harrier-hawks|
|IUCN Conservation Status||Least concern|
- These gray squirrels are known for hiding their food and retrieving them later.
- They are more active during the day.
- The squirrels can permanently stay at one place.
Mating and Reproduction
Eastern gray squirrels are known to breed twice a year. Two phases like December to February and May to June are their mating season. Adult males start to follow females when the latter enter their estrus stage. The copulation period is for 30 seconds maximum. After that, the females’ vagina closes itself. After a gestation period of 44 days, 2-4 young squirrels are born in each litter.
Newborn squirrels are blind and weigh around 0.4 oz (14 g) and they do not have any fur on them. Around 7th week, they are weaned by their parents until the tenth week when they are no longer a juvenile. It is around 9th months, they are called adults. Male squirrels are sexually active when they are 11 months old and for female, maturity comes around 5.5 months.
- Some males despite reaching the adult state, cannot become sexually mature if they stay with male alpha squirrels. Females also, despite reaching the reproductive age, often start mating after they become 1.5 years of age.
- They have been a popular food delicacy for Native Americans as well as modern Americans but according to doctors consumption of these squirrels is detrimental for human brains.
- The Latin name ‘carolinensis’ is given to indicate that the species is first recorded in Calorina.