While time at home has increased so has squirrel gazing 🐿👀. Over the past few months we have received photos and videos from across the country of squirrels people are seeing in their backyards! We really enjoy this, so please feel free to send us your squirrel photos and questions! 📸
We have had some exciting picture submissions from squirrel gazers that feature white squirrels. Last April we did a more detailed blog post describing the mystical and mysterious white squirrel. In today's post we want to share some of the photos people have so graciously shared with us recently and answer some of the questions they sent along with the photos.
Pictured below are a pair of partially white eastern fox squirrels that were spotted recently in Southern Indiana by home squirrel gazer John Waidner 🐿👀🏡.
These cuties are extremely interesting because not only are white squirrels rare, but white squirrels of the eastern fox squirrel variety are an even more rare occurrence in comparison to the eastern grey squirrel! And here Waidner spotted two in the same place! 🦄🐿
This extraordinary sighting left Waidner with some questions that we hope to help answer here!
Are these squirrels albino?
No! Although some squirrels are white due to albinism a condition that causes the complete absence of color pigment, these two squirrels are not albino. Albino squirrels can be easily distinguished by a lack of pigment in their eyes causing them to appear red.
The fact that these two squirrels have brown eyes and some coloration in their fur means their white color cannot be attributed to albinism. Instead these indviduals have a condition called leucism which leads only to partial loss of color.
What are the chances these two white squirrels are related?
California grounds squirrels are super cool for so many reasons! 🐿Here are two of my favorite fun facts about this species:
(1.) They are semi-fossorial, this means that they live both above and below ground.
(2.) They are ecosystem engineers, this is a special title given to species that make changes to their habitats that can have large impacts on other species. The burrows ground squirrels dig provide homes for lots of other California native wildlife like burrowing owls and rattle snakes. 🦉🐍
Scientists know a lot about how the burrows created by ground squirrels help improve the lives of the other species of mammals, birds, and insects that call these burrows home or use them to find food.
However, we know a lot less about what these underground burrow networks look like and if there are differences between how squirrels build and use this secretive space.
Over the summer I paired up with expert Squirrel Gazer Dr. Jennifer Smith 🐿👀 to track the underground pathways taken by California ground squirrels using motion sensing collars.
Dr. Smith is a professor at Mills College in Oakland, California. She has established a long-term study population of wild ground squirrels at Briones Regional Park. Check out her website to learn more about her amazing squirrel science and team of undergraduate squirrel gazers 🎓🐿!
High canopy connectivity is another way of saying 'a lot of connected branches.' Tree squirrels prefer to travel up in the trees to avoid predators on the ground. They use this interconnected branch network as a super highway to move through the forest. In order to do this they need large areas that have a lot of mature trees whose branches overlap. Research has shown that squirrels prefer to leap about 3 feet across at the maximum . Thus, an area with high connectivity would have lots of branches at this distance or less.
Along with finding Petry, Lisette found a second baby squirrel in her yard who she named Ducky. Ducky did not appear to have any obvious bone injuries and was not bleeding or crying. As Lisette approached Ducky he began to move on his own.
If you come across a baby squirrel like Ducky who does not appear to need immediate medical care the best option is leave the squirrel where you found it. Keep people and pets away from the area for a day and give the mother squirrel a chance to come back and relocate her baby. 🐿💕👼 If it is very cold outside it may be a good idea to place the baby on a blanket.
If by the end of the day the mother has not come back it may be time to bring the baby squirrel to a rehabilitation center as it will likely not survive the night outside on the ground alone.