The Eastern grey squirrel is a type of tree squirrel that is native to the eastern regions of North America. Often referred to as the grey squirrel, these adorable creatures are frequently spotted in parks, in forests as well as the backyard of the house. The large bushy tail of these squirrels is their most notable physical feature.
Eastern grey squirrels mainly occur in two distinct color phases – grey and black. Let’s learn about the Eastern grey squirrel and find out their distinct characteristic features.
Sciurus carolinensis is the scientific name of the Eastern Grey Squirrel.
The bodies of the eastern grey squirrels are predominantly covered with grey fur. The white underside of their bodies makes it easier to differentiate them from other types of fox squirrels. The bushy and large tail plays a pivotal role in helping them to fight against predators.
Length of the tail can be anywhere between 19 cm and 25 cm. The head and the body length of these squirrel species measure about 23 cm to 30 cm. Since sexual dimorphism is completely absent, the males cannot be differentiated from the females in terms of their size or color. Four and five toes are present on the front and hind feet respectively. They have a dental formula of 1023/1013.
These squirrels are native to Eastern as well as the Midwestern parts of United States. They can also be found around the southerly portions of the eastern provinces of Canada. Grey squirrels are also found extensively across several regions of the western parts of United States.
Considered for being the largest amongst all tree squirrels, grey squirrel inhabits in areas surrounded by dense woodland. They love spending most of their time in areas where there is a huge population of the hickory and oak trees as they can find plenty of nuts in these areas.
The dense vegetation of the forest regions serve as an excellent food source for them. They are also found constructing dens upon tree branches and also within the hollow trunks of trees. A common habit of the grey squirrels is to take refuge within the bird nests. They can be frequently found roaming in parks and backyards of houses located in the rural environments.
Eastern grey squirrels have a diverse diet and they love eating a variety of foods such as tree buds, berries, different types of seeds, acorns, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.
They also love consuming fungi such as fly agaric mushrooms.
These squirrels often tend to raid the gardens for corn, strawberries, tomatoes, and numerous other types of garden crops. On numerous occasions, the grey squirrels prey upon frogs, insects, small birds, and their eggs.
Have a look at the distinct behavioral patterns of the eastern grey squirrel.
The Eastern Grey Squirrel has over the years developed many adaptations that make it possible for them to easily leap across trees and escape from the clutches of the predators. Additionally, they can also catch preys using their sharp claws. With their claws, they can conveniently climb on trees and also grasp different things. They can use their sharp teeth to crack open the nuts and eat them.
The eastern grey squirrels breed twice a year. December to February and May to late June are notified for being their mating season. Their gestation period lasts for about 44 days. Once their gestation period comes to an end, the squirrel produces 2-5 young squirrel babies.
The number can increase up to 8. Eastern grey squirrels use sheltered nests for giving birth that they have created within the hollow of the trees. The newborns are blind when they are born and weigh about 15gm. Maturation of these squirrels happens quickly and they start developing hair by about the third week.
The Eastern Grey Squirrels can live up to20 years in captivity. In the wild, their lifespan is much shorter due to predation and other critical challenges.
Grey squirrels have got a number of natural predators, such as red fox, raccoons, snakes and hawks.
The eastern grey squirrels are host to numerous types of diseases and parasite attacks. They often have cysts on their bodies that are caused by the Botfly larvae. They are often threatened by health issues resulting from worms, lice and ticks. Grey squirrels can face ailments such as squirrel pox and Fibromatosis. Origins of such viruses are yet unknown.
Eastern Grey Squirrel has been classified under the category of least concern species by the IUCN. They do not cause any damage to agricultural crops and are considered as important agents of reforestation. Their tendency to bury their nests helps in the reestablishment of the hardwood forests.
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