Black squirrels and other squirrel fur colors

A black squirrel on pole

Did you know black squirrels exist? Me neither. I’ve lived in several different states ranging from Alabama to Michigan, Texas to South Carolina. At all of my addresses, one constant remained:  There would be squirrels, and the squirrels would be brown or gray. Size may vary from the svelte squirrels of Texas where the ungodly heat keeps them small and trim (or maybe the chupacabras eat the squirrels before they develop a proper girth) to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the squirrels had pack on more pounds than Uncle Fester at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Seriously, all the wildlife of the UP is unnaturally large. Don’t get me started on the skunk that blocked my front door one evening. That thing was the size of an English bulldog and looking for trouble.

Red squirrels eating

Imagine my surprise when I discovered I’d spent my whole life with a very limited knowledge of these small rodents and their “Colors of Benetton” diversity. Within each major family of squirrels—grey, red, fox, ground, and flying—color variations exist. Mostly run of the mill variations like a touch of brown on a grey squirrel or the vivid orange of a red squirrel in July, the true color pallet of squirrels can be wholly unexpected for anyone used to plain old brown and gray. (I cannot be held responsible for what I will do if ever I find a family of black squirrels, or God forbid, white squirrels in my attic!)

A black, or melanistic, squirrel

Black Squirrels

In the Midwest, namely Ohio, black squirrels are so prevalent that Kent State University erected a statue to their ebony inhabitant. (Not going there!) The black squirrel was imported to Ohio from Canada in the 1960s and has since become a beloved part of the landscape in Ohio. The black squirrel was also introduced to parts of Europe, where their population numbers are booming in places such as the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Germany. 

Red squirrel with crazy ears

Red Squirrels

The red squirrel can vary from a grey red in the winter and an orange red in the summer. So orange at times they appear to be a little ball of fire. A red squirrel can also be identified by the long hair protruding around his ears and small body, about half the size of gray squirrels. 

Ground squirrel

Ground squirrels

Ground Squirrels range in color from greyish brown to brown often with light colored tails and underbellies. Don’t be fooled by these tiny, sweet-lookin creatures though. They are burrowing animals and will do significant damage to your garden and lawn and trees. Cute does not mean good.

Big, fat fox squirrel

Fox Squirrels

The fox squirrel is by far the largest in its species. Everywhere in the United States except on the East Coast, this squirrel can grow to twenty-seven inches. That’s over two feet long! Imagine that living in your walls or attic! Fox squirrels come in two color groups. One group is various shades of gray to black with tan or gold underbellies. These dark colored squirrels often have white noses, ears, and feet. The other color group is red. Red fox squirrels sport red, tan, or orange fur but have no white markings like their gray or black cousins.

white squirrel

White Squirrels

The most disturbing color any squirrel could possibly be is white, but I can live with the idea of a white squirrel, truly white with dark teardrop eyes. I’m okay with that as long as I never have one run across my foot, especially during molting season when squirrels are no longer rats with cute, bushy tails, but rats with rat-like, naked tails. Then it’s just, “Oh my Lord, a fat rat just ran across my foot.” I’d pass out. The only characteristic to make a white squirrel more terrifying is if that white squirrel was actually an albino squirrel. Then, it would have dark pink or red eyes. 

flying squirrel

Oh, wait, there is something worse than an albino squirrel with ghost white skin and bulging red eyes—an albino FLYING squirrel! Yes, these do exist. And not just in my nightmares but possibly in your own backyard. 

Suddenly, black squirrels don’t seem so terrifying.

PS—If you don’t care what color the squirrel is, but you do want it GONE, click here.

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