bob_G

Black squirrel

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The last few mornings while driving down Bell Rd to have my coffee, I've seen a black squirrel.  I've also seen a couple in town. 

Does anyone know, are these just a genetic anomaly, sub species or just a dark pigment of grey?

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It's a genetic anomaly like albino called melanism I believe. 

 

It is a very persistent mutation and the squirrels are healthy and live long natural lives unlike albino which are often weak, sickly and vulnerable to predators. 

 

The area around South Acton Ma has been an epicenter of black squirrel population. They were common in the 70s and old timers spoke of them always being around.

 

They seem to be spreading and now are seen often in all the towns surrounding that area. 

First I heard of one on the Cape. 

 

Back when I was a kid I noticed besides black ones, our local Acton squirrels also put out occasional tail-less squirrels. I only ever saw baby ones. I don't think the tail-less ones survived to adulthood. 

I once watched a brood of baby squirrels playing together that included normal grey, black and tail-less.

 

A large fat adult black squirrel has a beautiful glossy black pelt, sometimes with silver highlights. 

I've wanted a pelt for years, never found a decent roadkill. The black ones seem concentrated around the older thicker settled area. No easy way to harvest one.

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3 mins ago, R.R. Bridge Fisher said:

When i used to pick my daughter up at wesfield that was the norm there. 

Yes, my buddy's son went to Westfield and told me about the black squirrels.

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24 mins ago, bob_G said:

The last few mornings while driving down Bell Rd to have my coffee, I've seen a black squirrel.  I've also seen a couple in town. 

Does anyone know, are these just a genetic anomaly, sub species or just a dark pigment of grey?

It's just a color phase known as melanism,which is common in northerly populations of animals as the darker color absorbs more heat and allows them to utilize solar energy to help them keep warm.

Melanistic squirrels are common around the Great Lakes and Canada.

Other animals that are commonly melanistic are many species of bees and wasps that function in colder temps than normal phase.

The tiger swallowtail butterfly has a dark phase present only in the north (and only in females) that has less become less common common as the climate has warmed .Also, Northern water snakes,which,on Lk Erie are black instead of patterned as are the garter snakes on all the

islands of Lk Erie and the mainland shoreline.

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7 mins ago, Mikx said:

Sometimes I also see a red / ginger ones.

maybe red or fox squirrels? Reds are small,fox can be as big as a small cat and tend toward shades of orange.Reds like dense woods and fox like open bottom land and park settings.

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9 mins ago, slip n slide said:

It's just a color phase known as melanism,which is common in northerly populations of animals as the darker color absorbs more heat and allows them to utilize solar energy to help them keep warm.

Melanistic squirrels are common around the Great Lakes and Canada.

Other animals that are commonly melanistic are many species of bees and wasps that function in colder temps than normal phase.

The tiger swallowtail butterfly has a dark phase present only in the north (and only in females) that has less become less common common as the climate has warmed .Also, Northern water snakes,which,on Lk Erie are black instead of patterned as are the garter snakes on all the

islands of Lk Erie and the mainland shoreline.

Interesting. Thanks.

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Apparently the form of melanism in squirrels is called "adaptive" melanism. 

This means the black color lends advantage to survival, presumably through reduced visibility. 

It is also a dominant trait which means only one black parent is needed for black offspring. 

The trait dominance and the survival advantage is the reason they have spread in my lifetime. 

 

If my observations that black squirrels are centered in developed areas and rare in the woods is correct, that suggests the advantage conveyed by the black color is related to living around humans.

Someday maybe all city squirrels will be black.

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Well squirrels are having no survival issues in my neighborhood. Ive been matching wits with them all winter. Never seen so many.

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The Westfield area of mass had a very large population at one time and was the first place i had ever seen one .

When I first moved here to the cape I had a pair in my yard for awhile, but they soon left the are or were eaten by coyotes

 

Interesting to see how the colors of the squirrel population changed at some parts of our state and are more normal then the gray ones

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A kid shot a melonistic deer in Maine a few years back. It happens, but is more rare than albino deer. 

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Saw one of these in Mass a few years ago. Can't for the life of me remember where, but it wasn't on my property.

 

 

white_squirrel.jpg

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