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Posts Tagged ‘Abert’s squirrel’

Remember these two squirrels?

On a previous post, I said that these animals were hybrids between Eurasian red squirrels and North American Eastern gray squirrels, which are an introduced species in the United Kingdom.

I said that the squirrel in the top photo had been a confirmed hybrid, and because the other squirrel happened to be black, it was suggested that it was a hybrid between a melanistic gray squirrel and red squirrel.

Well, I was pulling your leg.

I’ve had one person check out the Wikipedia page on red squirrels and inform me that the gray one was actually a Eurasian red squirrel in its winter pelt.  Though becoming rarer in the British Isles, red squirrels are still quite wide-ranging animals, and they vary greatly in color throughout their range and throughout the year.

The black squirrel isn’t even a gray squirrel or a red squirrel.

It is a melanistic Abert’s squirrel (Sciurus aberti), which is a species native to the southern Rockies.

Long-time readers know that I’m somewhat prone to pulling pranks.

And I like to keep you on your toes…

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Generalists are very interesting, for as cute as the Abert’s squirrel is, they don’t live off the North American continent. It is very specialized to its habitat and to is peculiar food source.

Eastern gray squirrels are found in many European countries. South Africa has a few of them. And Australia did have them for a while.

If you can eat anything, you’ll be able to live anywhere. When I was in undergrad, I watched the local grays raid the dumpsters. They would run off with pancakes, pieces of bread, and anything else they could find.

Abert’s are found only in parts of the Southern Rockies. The Kaibab squirrel, a subspecies of the Abert’s, is found only on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and a small area of the Kaibab National Forest. It is a good example of geographic isolation producing a unique subspecies. (It was the textbook example of the phenomenon in my sixth grade science textbook.)

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As I’ve written previously, the poor mast year has put the local squirrels on relief for the whole winter. The regular snowfall that we’re now receiving has forced them into eating lots of birdseed and corn out of our feeders.

We have two fox squirrels here who are so fat that they look like small groundhogs.

I’ll try to get photos of them, but these squirrels are hunted every year. They have a very real fear of people. They are nothing like suburban squirrels or those inhabiting parks.

In my immediate area, about one third of the grays are melanistic. Unfortunately, not a single one of them has come to our feeders. We’ve got a gray one with a blackish face, but no black solid black ones at all. When we’ve fed them in the front yard, we have had a few black ones show up, but virtually no fox squirrels visited. In the backyard, the fox squirrels dominate.

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Please note, that we have American red squirrels here, although they are not that common. I prefer to call Sciurus niger the “fox squirrel,” while  I call Tamiasciurus hudsonicus is the “red squirrel.” I know this might cause some confusion for those regions of the country where the fox squirrel is called a red squirrel. To me, it’s not a red squirrel. It’s a fox squirrel. A red squirrel is something different.

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