Oct 24 2010

Turning gray

Published by at 7:32 am under Mammals


Gray squirrels are, of course, gray — that’s how they got their name — but did you ever notice that in the summer they’re actually rather brown?

From March through June gray squirrels molt into a brown or tawny pelage that blends well with their summertime surroundings.  Then in September and October they molt again, this time into paler, grayer winter coats so they’re ready when the cold winds blow.  My backyard squirrels are making this change but their faces and ears are still brown. 

Lately I’ve seen the squirrels on frequent caching expeditions up and down the street because my neighbor has a prolific black walnut tree.  I’m sure the squirrels are burying walnuts but I only see evidence that they’re eating them.  They leave behind little piles of broken shells and a permanent black stain on the cement.

I wish they wouldn’t pick my front steps for their walnut feasts but I can understand their urgency. 

Winter’s coming.  It’s enough to turn a squirrel’s hair gray.

(photo from Wikimedia Commons.  Click the photo to see the original.)

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Turning gray”

  1. Frank Corrention 24 Oct 2010 at 9:13 am

    In your travels, do you ever see the fox squirrel?

    FC

  2. Kate St. Johnon 24 Oct 2010 at 11:03 am

    Yes, I saw a couple of fox squirrels yesterday at Schenley Park.

  3. Mary Ann Pikeon 25 Oct 2010 at 8:16 am

    I think a lot of animals change color with the seasons….deer in the summer are more orange brown, and in the winter more of a tan-brown (this is really noticeable if you can see them from a distance crossing a field). And my horses would change color also, getting more brown in the winter and lighter (with redish or gold overtones in cases), in the summer.

  4. faith cornellon 25 Oct 2010 at 9:54 am

    Boy learn something everyday. We have about 3-4 squirrels who keep trying to finish off the nuts in the beech tree but I think they have all fallen & of course there are shells everywhere.

  5. Kate St. Johnon 25 Oct 2010 at 10:51 am

    Mary Ann, how fascinating that your horses also change their coat color for the winter. Wow.

  6. Mary Ann Pikeon 25 Oct 2010 at 2:28 pm

    It wasn’t a huge color change, but definitely enough to be noticeable. I’m sure that part of it was the fact that their winter hair is a lot longer than the summer hair, and the colors appear duller in the winter.

  7. Kate St. Johnon 25 Oct 2010 at 2:42 pm

    My cat has her winter coat now — very thick with longer hairs. But she still sheds all the time. :(

  8. Kathy Mon 25 Oct 2010 at 4:44 pm

    I have seen some very black squirrels lately. What about them? Are they still gray squirrels or are they a different animal?

  9. Kate St. Johnon 25 Oct 2010 at 4:47 pm

    They are gray squirrels who happen to have dark fur. They will be on the blog in the next week or three.

  10. Kathy Mon 26 Oct 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Oh good! I have been meaning to look them up. I just saw the black one again today, same place. I really enjoy your blogs!

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