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More Fur Color Variations in Grey Squirrels

Updated on August 21, 2015

Black Squirrel

In a hub article a couple of months ago I described a blond squirrel that frequented my backyard feeder. In it I also had a fleeting photo of a black squirrel that I assumed was a "catch and release". Although we live in a wooded area many people don’t appreciate the woods being that close and live-capture squirrels and other animals to release in the woods near the lake. Lots of them find their way to my house for a brief food stop and then head home. I assumed Blackie fell into that category since I only saw him once.

Three weeks later, blackie was back and now seems to be regular, though a bit more skittish than the rest of the regulars. Guess if I'd been caught I'd be wary too.

Now that he's a regular and I can get a good look, I see what makes him more distinctive than just a dark body undercoat. It's the dark belly fur that's so odd.

Eastern Grey squirrels have six genes or gene groups that control fur color for different parts of their body. And, like all mammal have two types or colors of melanin that can be produces: black and blond/red/brown (depending on density). Theoretically, all colors from all black to all white (lack of any melanin) are genetic possibilities. But typical Greys have a grey body undercoat, brown overcoat, and white belly. Though the under and over coat can vary in intensity from very dark to very light, it's the overall scheme that gives them their characteristic appearance

Blackie's black undercoat is only a few shaded darker than the darkest "typical" grey , the black belly and overcoat make for an odd looking animal. The other squirrels don’t seem to notice though.

He most likely has a condition called melanosis or hyperpigmentation where all the genes are cranking out max melanin.


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      6 years ago

      Melanin, shmelanin--those are just some cool squirrel photos! We have some awesome little spotted ground squirrels here in SE Arizona, but mesquite trees don't count much for real woods, so nothing like your grey guys (and gals).

      Voted Up Plus.


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