Hey! Here’s a good mystery for you—what is this animal?
And this one?
Are they my cousins, or not?
And while you’re pondering on that, we squirrels at The Squirrel Nutwork want to announce we’ll be suspending our regular blogging activities for the winter. Or maybe beyond. Nutmeg has decided it’s too hard to keep up the daily commitment and we can’t do it without her. She asked me to drop the nut on our readers today, but says we’ll run another week to the end of November.
If you answered, yes, these squirrels are Hickory’s cousins, you are correct. These colorful squirrels are also Eastern Gray Squirrels, Sciurus carolinensis, but have genes that make their fur a different color. I’m also related to Red Squirrels and all other ‘tree squirrels’.
In the case of the white squirrel, we need to talk proper name. If you looked closely, this squirrel doesn’t have red eyes –so he’s not ‘albino’. Instead, it’s a rare coloration from a recessive gene causing leucism, or a lack of pigment in the skin and fur. You humans seem to be fascinated by this difference, and flock to view white squirrels. But I can assure you, they live, eat and nest the same as Nutmeg and I.
The black squirrel also gets his color as a result of genes, but mutant ones in this case. Apparently when North America was first settled, most squirrels living in the thick eastern woods were black. But as the woods were cut and developed, gray-colored squirrels had an easier time hiding. The squirrels with the genes for black coloration died out and the grayer ones survived. This camouflaging change happened for wolves as well.
Both of these squirrels live in Northern Virginia, the same as Nutmeg, Ol’ Wally, Miz Flora and I. Seems it isn’t so hard to get along in today’s suburbia with different fur.