The American red squirrel is the runt of the bunch, measuring about 12 inches from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail. Their heads often seem large, out of proportion with the body size. The squirrels are rusty, reddish-brown most of the year but they turn slightly grayer in winter. The underside is white. American red squirrels are more territorial than eastern gray or fox squirrels and are extremely vocal, chattering or barking when something (or someone) encroaches on their territory.
I haven’t seen any black squirrels in my area, although I have seen them in northern Ohio, in Washington, D.C., and some other areas. The black squirrel isn’t a separate species. Instead, it’s a somewhat rare mutation that occurs in both gray squirrels and fox squirrels.
I have seen a white squirrel, just once, in our backyard on Christmas Day 2016. We watched it as it attempted to reach our bird feeder a few times that day. We had never seen it before and we haven’t seen it since. I guess it was just visiting relatives for the holiday.
White squirrels, like black squirrels, are genetic mutations. White squirrels are typically gray squirrels with one of two genetic aberrations, according to the UntamedScience website: “The first is albinism, caused by a mutation on a gene that codes for pigmentation. Albinos have red eyes. The other is a white morph, caused by a different gene. It is a naturally occurring trait of eastern grey squirrels that is very, very rare.”
I couldn’t tell if the squirrel in our yard had red eyes, but the white fur really stood out. And that’s a problem for the squirrel, because the white fur makes it easy to spot for hawks and other predators.
I add a new featured gallery the first of each month. The numbers in the gallery title represent the month and year it was featured. Last month’s featured gallery, with photos of sunrises and sunsets, has been moved to my featured gallery archives.