General: The eastern gray squirrel,
also known as the "bushy tail", is one of the larger American squirrels.
Not as large as the fox squirrel. They are also one of the most widely recognized by people due to the fact
they have readily adapted to suburban and even urban life. My father lives
on the east side of Manhattan, New York. The neighborhood he lives in is
inhabited by a black phase. I have counted as many as 6 gray squirrels at my
upstate New York backyard birdfeeder in the winter.
squirrels do not hibernate. They are active all year round. They do build
leaf nests in trees that can be easily spotted in winter after deciduous
trees have dropped their leaves. They will also nest in abandoned woodpecker
dens and natural tree cavities.
I consider the gray
squirrel the biggest nuisance suburban wild animal. They will raid gardens
and fruit trees. I have lost all the apples from 2 trees I have on my
property to these squirrels. I have watched as they have climbed the trees
and chewed a piece of apple and then just leave. They also climb up houses
and have nested in house attics and garages causing much damage. I know
people who have live trapped gray squirrels and relocated them only to have
the same squirrel show up a week or so later.
The eastern gray
squirrel can breed twice a year, mid-winter and late spring/early summer.
Gestation is approximately 44 days. There are usually two to six young in
each litter. The young are weaned in about 50 - 55 days. They leave the nest
after about 70 days. According to Audubon, the second litter will usually
stay with the female their first winter(1).
It can live to be 20 years
old in captivity, but in the wild it usually only lives to a maximum of 12.5
The eastern gray squirrel has been introduced into
certain areas of Europe and England where they have taken habitat from
native species.(2) A prime example why species introduction should be studied
and debated before a decision is made.
Gray squirrels are a commonly
hunted animal. They are fun to hunt and actually taste fine if handled
My favorite gun is a .22 single shot. The best way to hunt is to
look for stands of forest that carry their food sources - oaks, beech trees,
pine and old apple orchards are all great places to look.
Learn more about squirrel hunting by
clicking this link here.
Identification: The eastern gray squirrel is approximately 14" -
19" long (tail being up to 9") and from 1/2 to 1
lb. They are gray above, on
their back and head, Their belly is lighter gray/buff white. The tail is
bushy gray. There are black phases of this animal that I particularly like
as well as albino.
Habitat: Hardwood forests with
stands of the trees that provide food. Oak-hickory forests are prime. Mixed
hardwood forests with pine. Also forest bordering agricultural lands. These
animals will travel for their food.
eastern gray squirrel is found in the eastern United States and south
Eastern Canada, (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick to Manitoba), south to
eastern Texas and Florida north to Maine.
Eastern gray squirrels eat a range of foods, but are primarily herbivores.
Foods such as tree bark, seeds and acorns, walnuts, and other nuts, tree
buds, such as maple and tulip tree buds, and some types of fungi. They will
also eat insects as well young birds and the young of other squirrels.
The Scat of the eastern gray squirrel is small, black and
oblong. It is usually inconspicuous.
(1) National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American