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Species Description

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae

Description

Uniformly gray above. White on the belly. Tail bordered with white-tipped hairs. Total length, 40.6 - 50.8 cm (16 - 20 in). A tree-dweller with a very bushy tail. In the summer months, one sometimes may see a Gray Squirrel which looks hairless. This condition is caused by a mite infestation called mange.

Life Cycle

There are two peaks of breeding activity per year, one in January and the other in May and June. During the breeding periods, several males may pursue a female up and down branches and from tree to tree in what is called a "mating chase." After a gestation of 40 - 45 days, the female gives birth to an average of 2 - 4 young. Young are born naked and toothless, with eyes and ears closed. When they are weaned at 2 months of age, the young are one-half the adult size. They remain with the female as a family group for about 4 - 5 months.

Natural History

The Gray Squirrel prefers hardwood forests of the Piedmont Region, mountains, and river and stream floodplains where an abundant supply of nuts, acorns, fruits, and flowers can be found. It will also eat insects and occasionally bird eggs. The Gray Squirrel constructs two types of nests. One is in a tree cavity, and is used for rearing young and for winter shelter. The other type of nest, which looks like a ball of dry leaves and twigs lined with plant fibers, is lodged in the upper branches of a tree. It is used as temporary shelter in both summer and winter. Main predators of the Gray Squirrel include hawks, owls, the Coyote, foxes, the Bobcat, and occasionally weasels, raccoons, and snakes. Wild individuals have an average life expectancy of 5 years.

Range

Eastern Gray Squirrel Region Map The Gray Squirrel can be found throughout Georgia. This species is distributed throughout the forested eastern half of the United States.

Conservation Status

The Gray Squirrel is very common in urban and suburban areas and is probably one of the most frequently seen wild mammals in the eastern United States. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources maintains populations of Gray Squirrels by having a controlled hunting season from August to February.

Similar Species

The Gray Squirrel is readily distinguished from the Fox Squirrel by its smaller size, uniform gray color, and white belly.