Field Guide/Mammals/Eastern Gray Squirrel
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|Sciuris carolinensis (Eastern Grey Squirrel)
Size: Weight is usually 11.9-26.4 oz (338-750g). Length is 15-20.7 in. (380-525mm).
Description: Medium sized tree squirrel. No differences in size or color between sexes. Back of squirrel ranges from grey to cinnamon color. Front is light grey.
Similar Species: Most differentiable feature between other similar squirrels is its long bushy tail.
Range: Ranges from just west of Mississippi River through eastern states of the United States and up into Canada. Also live in Italy, Scotland, England and Ireland.
Habitat: Large woodlands with trees that produce winter storage such as acorns or walnuts.
Diet: Mainly nuts, buds, and flowers. Will eat farm crops such as corn or wheat, especially during winter. May also eat frogs, eggs, and insects.
Activity: The eastern grey squirrel does not hibernate. It is most active in summer 2 hours after sunrise and 2-5 hours before sunset to avoid overheating in the sun.
Reproduction: There are 2 breeding seasons; one in first 2 months of the year, second in the middle 2 months of year. Gestation is 40 days. Many males may mate with one female. Once mated, the male has no role in rearing offspring. Average litter size of 3. Female will generally give birth to cavity prepared in tree. Newborn have no fur and develop the fur by 4 weeks. At 12 weeks, the young will be adult size and independent.
Lifespan: Average of 6 or less years
Notes: The eastern grey squirrel was an important source of food for both the colonists and Native Americans and is still eaten by some people today. Squirrels can be a household pest by getting into bird feeders and can be destructive to property. Squirrels will either live permanently in a hollowed out tree or build a temporary nest made of twigs and leaves in the notch of tree branches. The eastern grey squirrel is hunted by many animals including hawks, coyotes, bobcats, and other carnivores. They are hard to catch because of their quickness and will produce a shriek to warn others of danger when a predator is near. They will eat almost anything including nuts, berries, field crops, and have even been known to be cannibalistic. They primarily live in large areas of heavily wooded areas. Communication between squirrels is translated through twitches and posture. The sense of smell is important to the eastern grey squirrel, allowing them to sense stress and the reproductive state of other squirrels. The eastern grey squirrel is important to its ecosystem, being known for spreading seeds of multiple beneficial plants. They are also the prey to many carnivores and prey on nuts and small animals as well.