Page 145 - A Field Guide to Fairfax County's Plants and Wildlife
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y Squirrel

(Sciurus carolinensis)


This tree-dwelling rodent is usually silver-
gray with a white chin and underparts. The
brushy tail is fringed with white hairs. There
is also a less-common black color phase.
Length ranges from 30 to 53 centimeters
from nose to tail. Gray Squirrels usually have a breeding season in early
spring and another in summer. After mating, the female builds a nest in a tree
cavity or in the branches and gives birth to two to four young (called pups).
The female cares for the pups until they can live alone. In fall, Gray Squirrels
fatten up for winter (many are hit by cars in late fall because they are so fat
and slow!). They also store food in tree cavities or bury it in the ground. Both
sexes build winter nests for shelter, but they do not hibernate and stay active
all winter.

Distribution and Habitat A Gray Squirrel’s tail can be used as
a shield (for fighting), a balancing
Gray Squirrels are common in all five pole (for leaping from tree to tree),
physiographic provinces and can be an umbrella (when it’s hot or rainy),
found any place with large, mature or a blanket (when it’s cold). It also
trees. They adapt easily to the signals emotions like anger, curiosity,
presence of people and are known excitement, fear and playfulness.
to live in attics, garages, chimneys,
barbecue pits, crawl spaces and
even old cars!

Role in Food Web

Gray Squirrels are primarily herbivorous
and eat nuts, seeds, fruits, berries,
fungi, buds and shoots. They also
consume insects, carrion and bird eggs
and chicks. They sometimes gnaw on
old bones or antlers to obtain minerals
important to their diet. Predators
include birds of prey, foxes, Raccoons,
Coyotes, dogs, cats and humans.

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