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Wildlife and Invasive Species Education (WISE) Species Profile: Eastern Gray Squirrel

Common Name: Eastern Gray Squirrel

Scientific Name: Sciurus carolinensis 

Identification: The eastern gray squirrel ranges in size between 17 to 20 inches long and weighs about 1 to 1.5 lbs. The tail of the eastern gray squirrel is bushy and long, averaging 7 to 10 inches long. Although given the name gray squirrel, the fur can be comprised of different shades of brown, black, and white. The feet of the gray squirrel are well adapted to climbing. Claws on the feet allow for these aerial acrobats to jump from tree limb to tree limb and can even be seen balancing on powerlines. Eastern gray squirrels have a white ring around its eye and long whiskers. The teeth are typical for a rodent. Squirrels have about 22 teeth and contain one pair of large incisors on the lower and upper jaw.

Description: The eastern gray squirrel can be found both in woodlands, naturel areas, and urban environments, especially those containing trees. This is a tree dwelling rodent that spends most of its time in the canopy. One of its favorite trees are live oaks. The large limbs make for nice runways and tree hole cavities make nice nesting sites. Nests can also be found in the open, usually located at the forks of tree branches. Eastern gray squirrels breed about two times per year and have about one to four pups each brood. Juveniles leave after 42 to 49 days from birth. Survival rate is between 25 to 40%. Predators include hawks, owls, and pets such as cats or dogs. Squirrels are quite vocal. They have distinct distress calls when a predator is near. Longevity may vary, but averages one to two years.

Diet: The main diet of squirrels include acorns, bark, berries, and seeds. Squirrels need about 2 lbs. of food per week. Eastern Gray Squirrels also have been shown to eat mushrooms, flowers,and even caterpillars. They are attracted to bird feeders and may be a nuisance.

Interesting Facts: Did you know that in some parts of Florida, there are white squirrels? This is known as leucism. Leucistic squirrels have white fur and usually a gray patch on their head and dorsal stripes down the back. They have dark eyes, unlike albino squirrels.

References: Eastern Gray Squirrel https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/mammals/land/squirrels/

Eastern Gray Squirrel https://www.psu.edu/dept/nkbiology/naturetrail/speciespages/graysquirrel.htm

Eastern Gray Squirrel https://oepos.ca.uky.edu/content/eastern-gray-squirrel

Fast Facts: White Squirrels https://marinelab.fsu.edu/archive/virtual-classroom/fast-facts/white-squirrels/

Cover Photo Credit: Jim E. Davis

 

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