- Size: 20” long
- Color: grayish brown with white underside; all black mutations common in some locations
- Habitat: various parks, woodlands, backyards
- Where and when to observe: year-round on most any street or parks
Sometimes called “rats with furry tails,” the Eastern Gray Squirrel is a native rodent (unlike the rat), and perhaps one of the most frequently seen mammals in the city.
Measuring approximately 20” long, with grayish brown fur contrasting against white fur on its belly, the Eastern Gray Squirrel is frequently seen scampering through parks, or leaping through tree branches. Thanks to their bushy tails for balance, curved claws, and hind feet that rotate 180 degrees, they are very agile and can hang upside down from branches and tree trunks. Squirrels also possess superb vision, smell and hearing. Their communications are complex, mixing a series of vocalizations and postures like tail flicking.
Black squirrels (seen in the five boroughs like the Bronx Zoo, Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town, and Queens Botanical Garden) are frequently thought to be a separate species. However, they are simply Eastern Gray Squirrels with dark pigmentation in their fur.
Eastern Gray Squirrel females care for two litters each year. Raised in tree cavities or leafy nests in tree tops, two to three naked, blind babies are cared for by the mother until they are 10-12 weeks old.
Squirrels are omnivores – though they eat nearly everything including bones, bird eggs, nuts, and flowers, acorns are their main food source. They contribute to the ecosystem by burying acorns, which develop into oak trees. Furthermore, though they may seem to have relatively carefree lives for city animals, squirrels fall prey to a number of predators and are often hit by cars.
- Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City by Leslie Day, published 2007 by Johns Hopkins University Press.
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, accessed on 7/16/09 at: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/42462/0
- Hinterland’s Who’s Who by the Canadian Wildlife Service, accessed on 1/9/2012 at: http://www.hww.ca/en/species/mammals/eastern-grey-squirrel.html
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