I have breaking news from the forest! The war is over! Yesterday I finally got a decent picture of the elusive black squirrel. This has been one of my longest adventures, with many twists and turns. I was beginning to think I couldn't do it, but here it is.
I was able to sneak up on this sneaky little critter before it ran off into the forest, never to be seen again. It started out like any other encounter with a black squirrel, but I was able to use the cover of a few trees and a little stealth to sneak up on this nervous little guy.
I got a few good pictures and several bad ones. The squirrel noticed my presence as soon as I took the first shot. It quickly turned and ran away, but I still did what I needed to do. This is a great victory in my battle with the squirrels. Along the way, I learned some interesting information.
Black squirrels are rumored to have been brought to this area of lower Michigan from the Upper Peninsula of the state. There are similar odd stories of the origins of black squirrels in several parts of the country. I'm not sure how true any of these are, but I've seen these more than any other.
Another thing I read was that black squirrels are actually gray squirrels with an unusually large amount of dark pigmentation. This story goes that at one time the northern part of the United States was thickly forested, and supposedly the vast majority of squirrels were the black variety.
As Europeans came and cut down the forests, the squirrels dark color stood out to make them easy prey for human hunters and any other predator. The squirrels that were left naturally adapted to a lighter gray color. This one sounds logical, but I'm still not sure.
Another thing I read was that black squirrels were known to be plentiful in the city of Detroit, and it is one of their origins. There is a huge problem with this one for me. I grew up in Detroit, and I don't remember ever seeing a black squirrel there. There were the reddish brown fox squirrels, but not any of these. Maybe I'll never know the real story. Does anyone else have a story?
Okay, this last photo is obviously kind of blurry. After this squirrel saw me, which happened very quickly, it ran chaotically away. The blur illustrates how fast it moved away, and how evasive these little critters can be.
Getting this close at all has been one of my greatest challenges so far. I never thought getting a picture of something that seems so common would have been such a difficult thing to do. In the end it all turned out okay though, because I got what I wanted, and now I can share it with the whole world. We all win!
Game over, man! Game over.
Congrats on the picture! I so identify with you on having a nemesis bird or species you always try and get a picture of only to have it go away. You took some great pictures of that squirrel!ReplyDelete
Ratty now I understand why the UK is plagued by grey squirrels! They are really our American cousins.ReplyDelete
Congratulations on finally getting a good shot of your squirrel friend! I love squirrels and my husband got me a squirrel sweatshirt that has some good advice from a squirrel on it. I posted about it here if you care to see: http://zemeks.blogspot.com/2008/12/advice-from-squirrel.htmlReplyDelete
Those are great shots! I just can imagine you trying to stealthily surprise that guy...Don't stop taking his pictures if you see him againReplyDelete
I saw a couple of red squirrels on the Isle of Wight last week. Unfortunately, they're only found in remote areas on mainland Britain, because they have to compete with grey squirrels for resources :-( As usual, I was too slow to get a photo ;-)ReplyDelete
Oh, I feel your struggle. Before I started taking pictures copiusly, I saw a black squirrel,several of them in fact, on Northwestern University's campus (outside of Chicago). Like all other campus squirrels they were fat and acclimated and eating from the trash. I was able to get within 1.5-2 meters of one. But I wasn't carrying a camera. Not even a point and shoot.ReplyDelete
Now that I carry a camera, dern creatures (all creatures) are camera shy.
Congratulations Ratty! I knew your patience would outwit the squirrel!ReplyDelete
I have never seen a black squirrel in the U.P., but I will keep looking and let you know if I ever do.
By the way, I saw a chipmunk yesterday that looked like 1/2 chipmunk and 1/2 red squirrel. Do you know if they mate? I am going to try and get a photo and post it..but I was wondering if you knew?
The Retirement Chronicles
I just found your blog via the socksite, so I'm reading for the first time. I'm assuming you've been stalking the wild black squirrel for some time now, so congratulations on the capture (on film)! There's a fox that's been hanging around the house I wouldn't mind getting a shot of, but we've been having rabid fox (and skunk) issues here in Flagstaff, so I think I'll keep my distance; otherwise the little guy might bite me on the ankle and steal my camera. Anyhow, off to peruse more of your blog now....ReplyDelete
Squirrels can be a nuisance to photograph. They are agile and fast to run. Their fur details are often lacking colour hence difficult to capture them clearly on camera.ReplyDelete
Good post with great images :)
Woohoo! You got a great one. You are way ahead of me on the origins. I know that they are genetically the same as the grays but with more pigment, like you said, but I hadn't heard all the other stuff. Interesting. There is one small town near me that has all black squirrels and everyone else here has grays.ReplyDelete
nice! i only see squirrels in the zoo here in the philippinesReplyDelete
i added you in my blogroll. hope you can add me too. my sites:
Kallen - Thanks. These black squirrels were the first animals I wanted, and they have taken me the longest to get very close.ReplyDelete
Mike - You could be correct. In those rumors I read, there was some additional stories of UK grey squirrels. Some have them coming here, and others have them going there.
Karen - I think of the squirrel as a friend, but I'm not sure about what it thinks of me. I read your post, and the shirt has some great advice, especially that last line.
Kruel - It was fun stalking that squirrel. I'll keep trying for more. Sometimes the second one is just as hard as the first.
John - I read about the grey squirrels overrunning your country. I think our fox squirrels might be too much for them in my immediate area. I'm still usually too slow to get them too. I just had so many attempts that the law of averages was in my favor.
DNLee - That's the same as they behave with me. I've seen pictures of these little guys roaming college campuses, without a care in the world. I'll bet those photographers never had to try to get close with the camera. :)
The Retired One - That helps my doubt of that first rumor that I read. I wonder where these little squirrels really came from.
I don't think they do, but that's only a wild guess from when I was researching my first red squirrel. I thought the same thing when I saw it. It didn't look as big as any other squirrel I ever saw before. I thought maybe it was a chipmunk with a bushy tail. It just turned out to be a different kind of squirrel.
Deb - Thanks, the sock site is a great place. I've been after those little black squirrels since I started this blog. We have a few foxes and a lot of skunks around here too, no rabies thankfully. I keep my distance from most animals I find. I've had a few run ins with several, including squirrels. I hope you like what you find here enough to keep coming back.
Roentarre - Yes, that describes my problem well. The tails seem to be very difficult, especially with these black squirrels.
Sharkbytes - I know some of those black squirrel stories are partially true, but I'm ver skeptical about some of the details.
Something I forgot to put in the import rumor was that the person who brought them to lower Michigan was supposedly the founder of Kellogg's Cereal.
PinoyDeal - I've seen pictures of some squirrels from your area of the world. There may not be as many as here, but some of yours are beautiful.
I appreciate the links, and I'll take a look at your sites. I've seen at least one already, and it's a good site. Because of limited space, I usually reserve my blogroll to honor people who comment here often, with blogs that I like to comment back on. I haven't had a chance to add some others yet. Keep on coming back, and I'll strongly consider adding you. I hope you understand, that's just the way I do things.
Congratulations! I've never heard of a black squirrel (well, outside of your blog -- this saga has been unwinding for some time, hasn't it?), much less seen a photo of one.ReplyDelete
Patience pays off, does it?
The Hawg! - I never heard of black squirrels either until a few years ago. That's why I'm so interested in them. This squirrel adventure may be my longest one yet. It's been going on since before I started this blog.ReplyDelete
Hi tty- Great shots of the black squirrell- I know how you feel finally getting a shot you've been after for 'ever'! I got the Buzzard shots (on my blog) but never thought I would actually get them!ReplyDelete
I saw some pictures on Flickr of Black squirells and on one group of photos, the guy taking them seemed to think that the black squirrell was actually a grey squirrell in its (and I quote) 'black phase'. That is really new to me as we have a huge grey squirrell problem in England (they killed off all the cute red ones to extinction apart from some of the Highlands in Scotland and a couple of tiny UK islands) but I have never, ever seen a black on in the UK. I think I first saw one on your site a few months back and I was really shocked it was black! I think this guy's theory must have been wrong? Well done for your patience ;)
Bemused - Those buzzard shots are some very good ones. I've been seeing groups of hawks like that, but I have yet to get them.ReplyDelete
I heard the same theory about the gray and black squirrels, but the gray squirrels that I've seen are much bigger than the black ones. They may be related, but I'm not so sure they're the same.
We saw our first black squirrel about 2 wks ago. I had never heard of them before, so I was quite surprized. We were in Willmington, IL about 75 miles south of Chicago. JudReplyDelete
Jud - Seeing one of these little black squirrels for the first time is amazing, isn't it? I only learned about them a few years ago myself.ReplyDelete
WE LIVE IN TEXAS ABOUT 45 MILES NORTH OF HOUSTON....IN THE WOODS. WE HAVE NEVER HEARD OF A BLACK SQUIRREL BEFORE. BUT ON MAY 17, 2009 WE SAW A JET BLACK SQUIRREL. IT LOOKED SCARED. DO YOU KNOW IF THEY ARE COMMON IN THIS PART?ReplyDelete
JULIE AND LIZ
Julie And Liz - I have read that black squirrels are very common near Houston. The more north you go the more common they get. I think they were imported there too, but that's what everybody says about them everywhere. These little squirrels do always seem unusually skittish. I think that's part of their charm, other than their unusual and fun color. Keep reading here. I'll have more things about black squirrels as I see them, and I always have something new and interesting.ReplyDelete
I'm 68 years old, I saw a black squirrel for the first time yesterday. Ran for my camera but I couldn't get a good picture because he was chacing a gray squirrel up and down the trees jumping from brach to brach then gone! I looked it up and found this blog. I live in the western part of MA at the NY border. Nice going on getting such a good picture.ReplyDelete
My grandma lived in Marshall, Michigan and there were black squirrels everywhere. I haven't been in Marshall in 20 years but in the 1960-70's there were a bunch of them. They actually outnumbered the gray squirrels.ReplyDelete
Anonymous - I've just learned of black squirrels in the past few years myself. It's very hard to get pictures of black squirrels; they're nervous little creatures. It took me a lot of tries before I got mine. I hope you get a few too.ReplyDelete
BitterrootBob - It seems these black squirrels gather in certain areas in great numbers, but you can go a short distance and not see any. They're strange little animals.
For what it's worth, we have some black squirrels out west here in California too (SF Bay Area). They're mostly in the cities & suburbs living among the houses. Once you get into the rural areas, they disappear and the grays fully take over. Like yours, they tend to be a bit smaller than their gray counterparts. Maybe it's just an infrequent genetic expression that occurs more often in city areas? Perhaps because of smaller genetic pools?ReplyDelete
Randomtruth - Our black squirrels seem to be mostly in our northern and western suburbs here. I'm not sure how far they exist in the country. In the section of the city where I grew up there were no black squirrels at all. I was very surprised to find out they exist.ReplyDelete
Don't get me wrong - I wasn't saying black squirrels are no big thing - I'm fascinated by them as well. I don't remember them growing up at all. Just the grays. And out here - we have only 3 species of squirrel - western gray, douglas and flying, and none of them are small, scruffy and black. It's a weird one. It's gotta be something with the gray squirrels...ReplyDelete
Randomtruth - Yeah, they are weird ones. We have the flying squirrels here too, but I've never seen one. We don't have the other two, but I'm interested in the western grays. The more I read, the more I'm convinced that the black squirrels are related to eastern grays.ReplyDelete
Yeah - I agree - the Eastern and Western Grays are basically the same squirrel, so they gotta be the root. In fact, I just found this blurb on Wikipedia that seems to have an answer:ReplyDelete
"Particularly in urban situations where the risk of predation is reduced, both white- and black-colored individuals are quite often found. The melanistic form, which is almost entirely black, is predominant in certain populations and in certain geographic areas, such as in large parts of southeastern Canada. There are also genetic variations within these, including individuals with black tails and black colored squirrels with white tails."
So there we go - the black form occurs in the wild too, but those ones get eaten quickly cause they don't blend well enough. But in the city, w/o predators, the black ones survive and thrive and increase their numbers by reproducing!
Btw - similar to these squirrels, we had a bullfrog with this strange black melanistic form show up in the pond last summer.ReplyDelete
Randomtruth - Additionally the black coloring might also be of some advantages to the squirrels in urban areas. It may be an adaptation where nobody quite sees all of the benefits yet. You're right about all of it, I usually see more black squirrels around neighborhoods than in the forest.ReplyDelete
These kinds of strange coloring anomalies seem to occur in all sorts of animals, and all over the world. I had a similar discussion about this a few months ago. Like you indicated with the squirrels, it causes the melanistic aspect, and also, more rarely, causes albinism.
I am from metro Detroit - Berkley, if you know where that is - and they're plentiful here. My family always told us that they came from Canada - whether or not that's true, I do not know, but there are a lot of them in Windsor.ReplyDelete
Sarah - Yup, I sure do know where Berkley is. These black squirrels coming from Canada is becoming a common theme with everyone I talk to, so I think that must be how they got here. Thanks for adding to that.ReplyDelete
Hello..I just saw my very first black squirrel today..I live in California. I was working in sacramnto and low and be hold out of the bedroom slider was the must beautiful black squirrel. I have lived in California for over 30 years and this is a first for me. This little critter was not at all afraid and appearred to be somewhat domesticated. Thank you Sarah for the information of where these little guys orginated. Eunice in Shingle Springs, CAReplyDelete
Dreamaker - It's kind of strange to see a black squirrel for the first time, isn't it? It surprises me when I read that they're so common. Most people go for most of their lives without seeing one. It's fun when you finally do though.ReplyDelete
I'm almost 60 and my dad is 86 and I thought I'd heard all of his stories. But the other night he told me that when we lived in Detroit (where I was born but we left the state before I was 8 mos. old and I know nothing of Michigan) he went with three friends into Canada. While there in the forest he sat down and was having a short rest when a HUGE black squirrel ran over by him. He had never seen one before and this guy gets up on Dad's boots and sits there checking him out. Then when he decided everything was ok he hopped off and ran away. I truly thought Dad was joking as here in Oregon we have the red squirrels and I had seen gray ones while back in Atlanta. Never heard of a black one so I thought I'd BING them and here I am. What a great story you have to share. Thanks for the confirmation that Dad didn't dream this up... lol! I tried to tell him that it was a skunk that had dyed the stripe to blend in.ReplyDelete
CarolynD49 - That is a very good story, and interesting. There are very many people who have never heard of black squirrels. They are usually surprised when they first see or hear about them. I know I was. I've lived most of my life in the Detroit area and never saw one until a few years ago. Black squirrels live in small almost isolated tribes. You can go just a few miles away and see none at all. But when you see one, there are many more in the area. Black squirrels are a type of gray squirrels, but when you see black squirrels, the gray squirrels quickly disappear. We have grays in this area, but not very many. Thanks for your comment and your great story!ReplyDelete
I had never heard of a black squirrel either, until yesterday. I live in Alabama and rehab babies if called and I went to pick up what someone called in as a kitten and when I got there it was a baby squirrel about a week old. The only ones I've raised have been gray but this one is black. Right now he's eating well and I'm excited to see if he stays black or will change hair color as he matures.ReplyDelete
Just found your blog. Gotta say I love it. Black Squirrels are in area all the time, which is very odd considering I hadn't seen one my entire life.
Sorry about replying to your comment so late. I haven't been replying to many lately. As far as I know you're little black squirrel will stay black for quite some time, maybe it's entire life. It's still just a brunette gray squirrel though. :)
You have a very similar experience to most of us with black squirrels. I never even knew they existed until a few short years ago.
Here in the Washington DC area, we have quite a lot of black squirrels. There are certain areas where they are more common. They live alongside of and mate with the gray ones, so there are also a lot of mestizo squirrels, so to speak. The black variety usually have sparser fur on their tails. I read in the Washington Post that squirrels nearly became extinct around here, and the population was replenished (on purpose! strange to say) with Canadian squirrels. I will try and find the link to that article. (Sorry, couldn't find it--it was a couple of years ago.) I just discovered this blog from a Mashpedia link (about groundhogs), and I love it!ReplyDelete
I don't understand the surprise in all of the previous comments. Here in a small town called Gadsden, located in N.E. Alabama we have just tons of them. In my own yard I have seen as many as 4 in an hours time. Talking to some of my neighbors blocks away, they also have them in thiers. Well anyway they have become rather common around this part of the country. So Ratty you are more than welcome to come and sit on my front porch and take as many pictures you desire.ReplyDelete
Most people aren't as lucky as us to have so many black squirrels where they live. These strange squirrels are very territorial. If you go more than a few blocks away, or more likely a few miles, you'll find that the black squirrels have vanished and nobody there has ever seen one.
western mass. black squirels were brought hear from a southern state in the early 50's. they were released in a public park.the first winter killed many of them.after 60 years they have managed to expand out some 50 to 60 mile circle. grampy northfield ma.ReplyDelete
I'm glad enough of them survived. This is a similar story to others I've heard. Black squirrels are a delight to see, especially for people who never knew they existed. Thanks for commenting.Delete
I know this comment is very late, but Washington, DC has a lot of black squirrels...I see many under my bird feeders, along with regular grey ones. 18 Canadian black squirrels were released from the zoo during Roosevelt's presidency, and they now account for almost 1/6 of the total population!ReplyDelete
All comments are welcome here, and late ones are just fine. I'm glad to read that you have so many black squirrels in Washington D.C. Yours is another similar story of how black squirrels were introduced. I wrote the post above so we could all find the origins of black squirrels. I love reading about every story each comment brings of an area's black squirrel origin. Thank you.
I, too, had never heard of black or white squirrels. Then in October 2010, while on vacation in D.C. (and staying in Arlington), I saw a black squirrel for the first time. I got a decent picture of it. It was on our last day and we had some time to kill before taking the shuttle to the airport so we went walking thru a nearby residential neighborhood. We had seen the Eastern Greys all week but then that day, I spotted a black one. It was playing in someone's front yard and there was a grey one watching nearby. Last week, while in Urbana, IL, I drove down to Olney, which is 2 hours southeast, and saw the white albino squirrels which was a first for me. Both the black and the white are beautiful! I have to go back to the Chicago area in two weeks and am visiting someone at the Northwestern U campus in Evanston. I read online that there are black squirrels on the campus there. I hope so!ReplyDelete
If you want to see a large colony of black squirrels come to my neighborhood. There are at least 20 black squirrels that like in the trees around my house & have many nests throughout the neighborhood. I like in Gadsden Alabama.ReplyDelete
I live in Houston, TX. I just saw a black squirrel in Oak Forest (subdivision of Houston), area code 77018, corner of Kinley & Wakefield. I also saw one in 2006 (or 2007) in the parking lot of the building where I worked (just over the fence is a neighborhood with lots of mature oaks) off of the feeder road of 610/T.C. Jester, zip code 77008. There is/was a population of them in the park adjacent to Durham Elementary, zip code 77008, but I didn't see any when I was there.ReplyDelete