The Black Squirrels of Westfield, MA
The black squirrel is a melanistic subgroup of the eastern grey squirrel. As a melanistic variety of the Grey Squirrel, individual black squirrels can exist wherever Gray Squirrels live. The black subgroup is particularly abundant in the northern part of the Eastern Grey's range. This may be due to the significantly increased cold tolerance of black individuals. Large natural populations of black squirrels can be found throughout Ontario, and in several parts of Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. Populations of grey squirrels in which the black subgroup is dominant can be found in these four areas as well as in smaller enclaves in New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut.
Black Squirrels Video - Through my kitchen window :)
Westfield, MA Black Squirrel
art print by hlkljgk
Black Squirrel History & Facts
- 10 London, Ontario Canada Black Squirrels were exported to Kent State University in 1961. Today they own the campus and the squirrels have been spotted in places such as: Warren, Cleveland, Barberton, Akron, and Canton.
- Ontario Black squirrels have been exported to the United States 4 times - in 1902, 1906 and twice in 1961.
- Black squirrels represent 1 out of 10,000 squirrels in North America. By North American standards this makes them rare.
- Most Americans have never seen a Black Squirrel.
- Japanese tourists flock to Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto to photograph the Black Squirrels there.
- Many children, seniors, and baby boomers are fans of Black Squirrels.
- The Black Squirrels in Victoria Park London, Ontario Canada are live tourist attractions with no admission
- The Black Squirrels that roam the grounds of the White House in Washington, D.C. are descendants of 18 Black Squirrels exported from Ontario in 1902 and 1906.
Â© 2005 The Washington Post
Black Squirrels in Westfield, Massachusetts
"A Westfield phenomenon since the late 1940s, the black squirrels now populate most areas of the city and have moved into surrounding communities. Because they are not indigenous to Western Massachusetts, the presence of the squirrels has led to a rather large collection of stories and tall tales as to how they got here, when, and perhaps most important, why? They were a gift to Frank Stanley Beveridge, the founder of The Stanley Park of Westfield, Inc. and Stanhome Inc., from former Stanhome Inc., sales manager's, Hubert L. Worell and Alvah (Al) Elzerman. In 1948, Worell and Elserman brought the squirrels from Michigan to Westfield, Massachusetts when they were to attend a conference here at Stanhome Inc., or known at that time as Stanley Home Products. The first arrivals were kept in cages and did not adapt well to their new environment; they failed to reproduce and eventually died. Undaunted, Worell and Elserman tried again, this time bringing six squirrels, allowing them to roam free in the confines of the park. The squirrels found their new surroundings and their freedom to their liking, and were soon an established tenant of Westfield. Now black squirrels are to be found all over the Pioneer Valley and are numerous especially in the park."
Region's Black Squirrels Offer Genetics Lesson
By Stan Freeman of the Springfield Republican
While gray and red squirrels are distinct species, black squirrels are not, said John E. McDonald, a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Northeast division.
"A lot of people think of them as a separate species from the gray squirrel. But they are gray squirrels, only a different color phase," he said.
Photo by David Molnar/The Republican Homer G. Perkins, who was on the board of directors of Stanley Park in Westfield for more than 50 years, holds a photograph of the park's carillon.
Gray and black squirrels do mate, said Marion E. Larson, a wildlife biologist with the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. The offspring can be either gray or black, and when two grays mate, the offspring can occasionally be black.
"And two black squirrels could produce black or gray colored squirrels," she said.
So why haven't black squirrels become as common as their gray cousins in this area? One reason is that the gene for black fur is recessive, meaning that it takes an uncommon pairing of parents to produce a coat of that color, Larson said.
As with all animals, including human beings, the features of the offspring are determined by the genes of the parents. A child gets genes from both its mother and father, and in some of those pairings of genes, one gene may be dominant, meaning it's the one that determines the feature, while another may be recessive, meaning that it gives way to the dominant gene. Only when two recessive genes are paired will the feature coded by that gene show up in the offspring. So it takes getting that recessive gene from both parents for the fur to be black. If either gene is the dominant gray gene, the fur will be gray.
Article excerpt via MassLive.com
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