Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - Wiki
Eastern Gray Squirrel
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[Photo] An Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in St James's Park, London, England. Taken by myself with a Canon 5D and 70-200mm f/2.8L lens at 200mm, f/6.3 and 1/100sec at ISO 1600. Date 19th November, 2006. Author Diliff http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Diliff
The Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is a tree squirrel that is native to the eastern to midwestern United States and the eastern provinces of Canada. The species name carolinensis refers to the Carolinas, where they were first recorded by zoologists, and are still extremely common.
The Eastern Gray has also been introduced into a variety of locations on the west coast of North America, including San Francisco and the Peninsula area of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties south of the city. At the turn of the 20th century it was introduced into South Africa and England, spreading across the latter and then invading both Wales and parts of southern Scotland where it has almost exclusively displaced the population of the native Red Squirrel. It has also been introduced to Italy, and the European Union is concerned that the gray squirrel will displace the Red Squirrel from parts of the European continent, as well.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel is common throughout most of its natural range and wherever it has been introduced. It readily becomes tolerant of humans and learns to take food left or offered by picnickers.
As its name suggests, the Eastern Gray Squirrel's fur is predominantly gray, but it can have a reddish tinge. Its belly is white. They have a large bushy tail. Particularly in urban situations where predation risk is reduced, both albino and melanistic forms of the Eastern Gray Squirrel are quite often found. At the northern limits of its range in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, the melanistic form tends to be more common than the gray form. There are well established colonies of melanistic individuals in Victoria Park, London, Ontario, Canada (with a daughter colony at Kent State University, Ohio); Albion, Michigan; Farmington, Michigan; Holland, Michigan; Washington, DC; Toronto, Ontario and its surrounding areas; Princeton, New Jersey; and the Bronx, New York. Additionally there are colonies of albino (white) individuals in the towns of Exeter, Ontario and Olney, Illinois as well as Brevard, North Carolina.
Like many members of the family Sciuridae, the Eastern Gray Squirrel is a scatter-hoarder, that is, it hoards food in numerous small caches, for recovery later. Some of these caches (especially those made near the site of a sudden abundance of food) are retrieved within hours or days, for re-burial in a more secure site. Others are not retrieved until months later. It has been estimated that each squirrel makes several thousand caches each season. The squirrels have very accurate spatial memory for the locations of these caches, and use distant and nearby landmarks to retrieve them. Olfaction is used only once the squirrel is within close range (a few centimetres at most) of the cache site.
The Eastern Gray Squirrel makes a variety of noises, including a loud screeching, a "buck buck buck" sound and a chattering, often followed by "kyukyukyuuuu." They make these noises to communicate with other gray squirrels, and sometimes they make noises while they're playing.
These squirrels build a type of nest, known as a drey, in the forks of trees. These consist mainly of dry leaves and twigs. Sometimes they will also attempt to build a nest in the attic or exterior walls of houses, often to the great annoyance and frustration of the homeowner. They also invade bird feeders for millet and sunflower seeds, but safflower is often used instead, as they seem to have no taste for it. Some seed is sold with hot pepper coating, because only mammals such as squirrels can taste its capsaicin, while the birds cannot. They have also been known to dig up bulbs from gardens. Their reputation for these habits has led some to call them "tree rats" or "rats with fuzzy tails".
Predators include hawks, mustelids, skunks, raccoons, snakes and owls. On occasion, this squirrel may lose part of its tail while escaping a predator.
Displacement of red squirrels in parts of Europe
In the UK, where it is known simply as the Grey squirrel, grey squirrels have no natural predators which has added to their rapid population growth and has led to the species being classed as a pest. Measures are being devised to reduce their numbers including one plan, proposed by Lord Inglewood, for famous television chefs, such as Jamie Oliver (who recently launched a successful campaign to make British school meals more healthy), to promote the idea of eating gray squirrels. In areas where isolated populations of Red squirrels survive, such as the island of Anglesey, eradication programmes for grey squirrels are in progress to allow red squirrel populations to recover.
Although the matter is controversial and complex, the main factor in the displacement of Red Squirrels by Grey Squirrels is thought to be competition for resources, leading to a decrease in fitness of the Red Squirrels on all measures (e.g. Wauters, Gurnell, Martinoli & Tosi, 2002). Grey squirrels tend to be larger and stronger than Red Squirrels and have been shown to have a greater ability to put on fat before the winter. These factors are thought to result in Grey Squirrels competing effectively for a larger share of the available food, resulting in lower survival and breeding rates in Red Squirrels. Parapox virus may also be a strongly contributing factor. Red squirrels are fatally affected by this disease, while Grey Squirrels are unaffected but thought to be carriers. Red Squirrels are also more affected by habitat destruction and fragmentation than the more adaptable Grey Squirrel, which has also contributed to a decrease in their numbers and a linked increase in the numbers of Grey Squirrels.
In Italy, Gray Squirrels have been found to rob the caches of Red Squirrels.
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