In North America the black squirrel is either a mutation of the Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) or a black phase in the fox squirrel (Sciurus niger). The red squirrels in Europe (Sciurus vulgaris) have a color that varies from red to black, some with black on their heads and backs. In the southern Sila region of Italy, only the black variety of Sciurus vulgaris can be found, and in areas of central Europe there are mixtures of colors. In Great Britain and most other countries, however, all the squirrels are the same color and are red. In the case of the European species, it is not a mutation but just a variety in the color gradient.

I'm a squirrel, squirrel, squirrely, squirrel,
With a bush, bush, bushy tail,
And I scamper here and there,
Scamper everywhere,
Searching for some NUTS!

The mutations from the gray squirrel in North America are mostly found in the northern climates and on many college campuses, where their presence creates an ever increasing number of urban wildlife legends and anecdotes. The fox squirrel is found in the Mississippi delta area and other less northern areas. The fox squirrel is bigger than the Eastern gray and will turn black as a phase and then turn back to its rusty color. Otherwise, Black squirrels are the same as the other squirrels and should be treated with dignity and respect.

I've got nuts on my nose, nuts on my toes,
Nuts on my head, nuts in my bed,
Nuts in my paws, nuts in my jaws,
Pop, crack!
Yum, yum!

The black squirrel is more "melanistic" than other squirrels, thus making the color of its fur darker. There is evidence that there is a gene that controls such coloring, as there may be several variations in a litter of squirrels with mixed parents. Red squirrels can come out black as well, but not as often. Some don't end up entirely black, either. It's a dominant trait, but some end up black with gray tails, some are black with red tails, or even an interesting spotty mix that looks like the result of a bad bleach job.

This is the tall tree bare and brown,
And these are the brown leaves fluttering down.
This is the squirrel with eyes so bright,
Hunting for nuts with all her might.

The black variety of squirrel in North America populates areas where the climate is cooler. Biologists believe that the black fur absorbs heat better and thus keeps the squirrel warmer in the winter. Selective genetics may give the squirrel a better chance of surviving in cold areas, but also doesn't seem to be so great for hiding from predators. Due to deforestation the squirrels can be more easily spotted by predators (birds of prey, furry things with teeth, mischievous college students) and they don't blend as easily as the gray and red squirrels in the area.

This is the hole where day by day,
Nut after nut she stores away.
When winter comes with its cold and storm,
She'll sleep all curled up all snug and warm.

As a result many of the squirrels are being seen in cities and big towns. Black squirrels in North America are most commonly found in the Great Lakes region, but are also found in certain areas of the Midwest. They are even the town mascot of Marysville, Kansas. Several other towns without much going on actually try to boost the black squirrel population to keep it at least even with the number of gray ones and call it "Black Squirrel boosterism".

Oolong says: Bit misleading to say all the squirrels in Britain are red by the way - the greys are more common these days. Maybe you just meant all the red squirrels...?
I'll admit I'm wholly unfamiliar with squirrels in Britain, if anyone has more info please send it my way. Sorry for any misleading statements in the writeup.

The poems are from a children's learning site @ by anonymous authors... messed up poems for a messed up squirrel.

other sources:$narrative.html