Monday, December 7, 2009

Mistaken Identity

The little critter you see in this picture is a Red Squirrel. It is the very first squirrel I ever took a picture of, about the time I started this blog. And at the time, it was about to shock the foundation of my knowledge! I had already suffered one huge shock. I had seen Black Squirrels for the very first time.

You see, up till then I had only ever known about Fox Squirrels. I grew up with fox squirrels all around my neighborhood. I didn't know they were only one kind of squirrel. I didn't even know they had a name other than just "squirrel". Then I moved to where I am now and I discovered these other two types.

When I first met the little guy above I thought maybe he was a Chipmunk, which I had also never seen before. He was much too small to be any kind of squirrel I had ever seen, and no squirrel I ever saw had that cute little white belly. He certainly resembled those two cartoon chipmunks, Chip & Dale. So I thought he was a chipmunk.

Still, I thought there was just something wrong with my assumptions. So I decided to do some research about the whole thing, and I found out that it was known as a red squirrel. A chipmunk would never have that fluffy tail. A chipmunk would also be much smaller, and a chipmunk has stripes on his back.

But there is really a type of squirrel with stripes that are very similar to those of a chipmunk. It's a kind of squirrel called an Indian Palm Squirrel. Go ahead, click on the link. It won't hurt. That's really strange, isn't it? It looks a lot like a chipmunk! You can see at least a little bit how easy it is to be mistaken about the identity of these creatures.

Then there is the question of the color of some of these squirrels. The squirrel above is a Fox Squirrel. Look at the deep red coat of fur he is wearing. Wouldn't he then be called a red squirrel? Well, no, because that little one at the top is a red squirrel.

I really have no idea why or how they got their names, but I assume they are based on even more assumptions. Yeah, yeah, ass|u|me. And with all the different names, the squirrels are really all different, aren't they? I've shown you two kinds of squirrel, and linked to a third, but there is a more common kind here in North America.

That one is the Eastern Gray Squirrel. They look very similar to fox squirrels, but with one big difference. It's the color of their fur. Their fur is, you guessed it, gray! They also have a beautiful white fringe around their tails. This is the squirrel that most of you see of when you think of a squirrel.

There is one more little problem we have here. There is another squirrel I've already mentioned. It looks totally different from the rest, and to most people it is a very mysterious little squirrel. Can you guess what it is?

The good old Black Squirrel. The little ninja of the forest. All of the squirrels above are different species of squirrels, but not this little black squirrel. It doesn't get that classification, even though it looks so unique. The black squirrel is really just a gray squirrel with black fur! Poor little guy doesn't even get more distinction, just because he's really a gray squirrel in disguise. Maybe one day after a little more evolution.

But wait, there's more!

Look at the fringing around the black squirrel's tail. It is lighter than the rest of the squirrel. It's certainly not black. Some of these black squirrels have white patches of fur on them, and it is much more common than I ever realized before. Some even turn all white. They are really albino black squirrels.

And then what if a black squirrel had a bit of white on its back. Oh no, a skunk! Somebody might think it was a baby skunk or something. I guess that would be an easy mistake to make. Have you ever seen anything that you assumed was something else? Have you ever seen a person that you assumed was a certain way just because of their appearance? Think of these squirrels for a little bit, and then think of your answer to those questions.


  1. That is quite a lot of varieties of chipmunks!

  2. Over time you have become an expert on squirrels. Did you know that the black squirrel was a color phase of the gray squirrel? That's why they look so similar.

    I'm guessing you knew that, just thought I'd mention it in case that was new info to you.

    Very nice post, once again.

  3. Ratty, you deserved a Master in Squirrelogy.
    Maybe you should change your nickname to Squirrily? (Have I said this before?) :D

  4. You think it is a chipmunk but it is not; you think it is a squirrel but it is not; you think who I am but I am not whom you think; you may not be the Ratty that I am thinking of; you are Ratty; you are not Ratty.

  5. Here in Arkansas, gray squirrels are as common as sin. Except in one city, Conway, where red squirrels are the norm.


  6. Once a long time ago the dogs got into some animal's nest. They pulled out all the babies and killed them. I found them by the shed (the nest was under the shed). I could not figure out what those adorable little (dead...) animals were. They had round heads and short little round ears and short smooth fur, and tails that were neither long nor short. They were mostly black with beautiful white stripes...

    can you guess?

  7. You're getting good with identifying them though..I'm still on level of gray, black, or tan squirrel, and can't tell the different!

  8. You always keep us thinking, Ratty. I love the picture of that striped squirrel! I've never seen a black squirrel or that gorgeous red one except through your spectacular photos.

  9. You are quite the squirrel expert. I doubt that I could tell them apart if i saw them, I may even have trouble distinguishing a chipmunk from a squirrel.

  10. I've only seen the red squirrels and the gray ones here. I really loved the red ones. But it's been over two years now since I've seen any. makes me sad at times. But at least I have some good video of them. Babies included! By the way. My crippled fox showed up last night! He looks real healthy and he has chewed the bones down. It's been a month since he got shot so I think he's going to survive....if the hunters don't get him again. I was so happy to see him. Couldn't get any photos because I would have had to open my window and I didn't want to spook him because he was right under it. I was just happy to see him. There are angels out there for our wildlife friends after all!

  11. Wow, very cool! Thanks for the info, and I love the pics!

  12. @Kirigalpoththa
    Actually one chipmunk, and a variety of squirrels.

    Yup, I wrote a very detailed post about black squirrels awhile ago. I mentioned many facts like that one in that post. I also mentioned in in a more simplistic way here. Thanks for adding that though.

    I'm not sure if I know that much about squirrels yet, but I might someday. I have a big squirrel project that might just make me a master.

    And I think you understand exactly what I was trying to say. I hope I'm right. I think I am.

    @The Hawg
    I think the grays are the most common in our country. The reds are very timid little guys, so the grays usually drive them away. Just ask everybody in England about that one.

    The only animal I think they might be are skunks. Of course, I'm sure I might be mistaken. I saw a picture of very young baby skunks, and they fit that description very well. They also look astonishingly like little striped puppies. Did you find out their identity?

    @Icy BC
    I only began to find out because the different kinds were so new to me. I wanted to write about them, so I began to research them on the internet. There's a lot of information for those who want to find it.

    I'm new to the striped one too. I just learned about it a few days ago. There is another kind called a Douglas Squirrel that is maybe the cutest little squirrel I've ever seen.

    The odd thing is that I can tell squirrels apart by the shape of their faces too. Chipmunks are easy. They don't have bushy tails like squirrels.

    The red ones are some of my favorite too. They're cute little guys. I haven't seen any in a year myself.

    I'm so happy about your fox! I was hoping things would turn out well for him. The more you see him, the better chance he has. I wish hunters would be more careful, like they're supposed to. I hope that fox's guardian angel takes good care of him from now on, and helps him live close to a normal life now.

    Squirrels are very interesting little creatures when we stop and look at them.

  13. When we lived closer to the coast I saw a lot of the Western Grays and Douglas Squirrels. I have seen some Reds but not many. A blogging friend on the west side of WA has black squirrels that come to her feeders. I've done a bit of research and found this side of the state has grays and reds, except for the Walla Walla area, Fox squirrels have moved into this area and taken over.

    I saw the comment above, you are right the Douglas squirrels are so cute.

  14. Here in Ohio, we also have another kind of squirrel (a ground squirrel, not a tree squirrel) that I bet you have, too--groundhogs. They are squirrels and excellent climbers, although they burrow to make their home. It's really weird the first time you see a groundhog up a tree!

    Oh, and don't forget Flying Squirrels...

  15. Don't forget the famous white squirrels of Translyvania County in Western North Carolina (no, I'm not kidding). They are very very cute. They live in just that one area, and down a little into northern Georgia as well.

    Happy squirrel hunting (with a camera, of course)!

  16. I forgot about one of my favorites, the Arctic ground squirrel. Cutest little guys you could ever meet, curious about everything. When I was camping outside of Barrow I woke up one morning to find one of them about three inches from my face.

  17. You really know your squirrels and chipmunks, Ratty...I will have to depend on you to identify some of my photos. :-}

  18. @SquirrelQueen
    I have read that the fox squirrels are the biggest and most dominant. I don't know why they aren't more common. I guess grays rule. It's interesting how much of a variety you have in your state.

    Those Douglas squirrels are one of my favorites, even though we don't have any here.

    @Joann Ballbach
    I have featured groundhogs a few times here. They are very fun, but I haven't had a chance to get very many close pictures of any yet. They usually stay in wide open areas where they can see me coming. I'd love to find one in a tree one time.

    I'd love to see a flying squirrel too, but they're nocturnal around here. That makes it very difficult.

    I've heard of white squirrels before. I didn't know there was a big population of them anywhere. I'll be investigating this one. Thanks.

    I looked at a few pictures of them, and I agree, they are very cute little guys. They would be fun to see up close.

    @The Retired One
    I'll do my best. I've been pretty good so far at identifying squirrels.