Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family:    Sciuridae
Size:    Length: 9 to 12 inches (23 to 30 cm)
Weight: 10.6 to 25 ounces (300 to 710 g)
Diet: Berries, apples, seeds, tree bark, insects, deer antlers, turtle shells, bones, maple seeds and tree buds
Distribution: Southeastern North America
Young:  2 to 4 young, once or twice per year
Animal Predators:  Hawks, owls, ravens, weasels, mink, raccoons, skunks, snakes and wolves
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: Up to 8 years in the wild and up to 15 in captivity



·      Although timid at first, many grey squirrels can become very tame, sometimes even accepting nuts from a human hand.

·      There are 28 species of squirrel worldwide.

·      The grey squirrel is the state mammal of North Carolina, and the state wild animal of Kentucky.

·      Black is the predominant colour of grey squirrels in Ontario and Quebec.



Despite their name, these squirrels come in various colours. The usual colour is grey, or greyish-brown, with a white underbelly and white tufts behind the ears. Grey squirrels are more commonly black (with no white areas) in Ontario and Quebec, which has led people to (wrongly) believe that they are a different species. Grey squirrels with black colouration are better at regulating their body temperature, which explains why they are usually found in areas where it snows in winter. Albino and/or white grey squirrel tribes exist in various areas of North America including Olney, Illinois; Kenton, Tennessee; Exeter, Ontario and Marionville, Missouri.



Squirrels prefer to live in wooded areas, but have adapted to suburbs and cities. Squirrels build dens inside hollow tree trunks, or take over an empty bird’s nest, lining it with leaves, dried grass and feathers. They have several nests or dens and use them all. In the winter, several squirrels may share one nest, curling up together to keep warm. 


Feeding Habits

Squirrels need to eat every day to survive, even in winter. They do not hibernate and can be found searching for food on even the coldest, snowy day. They eat nuts of all kinds, and will take food from the place of origin and bury it beneath the ground or snow, then find it later, not by remembering the burial site, but by smell. Often they do not find the site at all, and a tree will grow from the nut or seed. 



Mating occurs in mid to late winter, with a litter of two to four young born in the spring. Litters may consist of both black and grey offspring. A second mating season from June to July leads to about 20 percent of females giving birth to a second litter in late summer, nursing the first litter even while pregnant with the second litter. Young squirrels are born furless and blind after a gestation period of 40 to 45 days. They begin to follow their mother out of the nest at seven weeks. By 10 weeks of age, they can eat solid food and are weaned. At 14 weeks, they are ready to leave the nest and usually build their own nearby. 



Squirrels are sociable and will tolerate other squirrels within the same territory, even feeding from the same source. Squirrels have very expressive vocal abilities, projecting whether they are frightened, distressed, sad or angry. They also communicate by using body language and even by the position of their tail. The tail has a variety of purposes—it is used as a blanket to keep them warm while sleeping, for shade in direct sunlight, and to keep rain off their back in wet weather. When threatened by a predator, squirrels often distract the predator by swishing their tail rapidly. Predators will go for the tail, often just getting a mouthful of fur while the squirrel escapes.



Grey squirrels are not a conservation concern at this time.



Gray Squirrel Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US