JMcCombie
JMcCombie

Black Squirrel

Untouched color-colour photograph by J. McCombie.
This black squirrel is feeding from the bird feed mix that has fallen from the feeders hanging in the ap...
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Untouched color-colour photograph by J. McCombie.
This black squirrel is feeding from the bird feed mix that has fallen from the feeders hanging in the apple tree. She currently has a peanut in hand (paws), ready to take a nibble.
The black squirrel is a melanistic subgroup of the eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), a tree squirrel. They are common in the Midwestern United States, Ontario, Quebec, parts of the Northeastern United States and Britain.
As a melanistic variety of the eastern grey squirrel, individual black squirrels can exist wherever grey squirrels live. Grey mating pairs cannot produce black offspring. Grey squirrels have 2 copies of a normal pigment gene and black squirrels have either 1 or 2 copies of a mutant pigment gene. If a black squirrel has 2 copies of the mutant gene it will be jet black. If it has 1 copy of a mutant gene and 1 normal gene it will be brown-black. In areas with high concentrations of black squirrels, mixed litters are common. The black subgroup seems to have been predominant throughout North America prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, since their dark colour helped them hide in old growth forests which tended to be very dense and shaded. As time passed, hunting and deforestation led to biological advantages for grey coloured individuals. Today, the black subgroup is particularly abundant in the northern part of the eastern grey squirrel's range. This is likely due to the significantly increased cold tolerance of black squirrels which lose less heat than greys. Black squirrels also enjoy concealment advantages in denser northern forests.
Though black squirrels are common or predominant in many areas of North America, their overall rarity (perhaps as few as 1 in 10,000) has caused many towns, cities, colleges, and universities to take special pride in their populations of black squirrels. Several cities and towns in the United States and one in Canada make efforts to publicly promote their local populations of black squirrels. Several colleges and universities in the United States promote the black squirrel as an official or unofficial mascot.
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