Seen any black squirrels?

A melanistic squirrel in Toronto. From Wikipedia.

Got a call from Colonial Heights resident Sharon Pico, who reports seeing black squirrels in her back yard, including one with a white stripe down its tail.

“And you’re sure it’s not a skunk?” I asked. She assured me it was not.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a black squirrel. Retired Delta College biology instructor Steve Stocking tells me most native squirrels around here are grey in color (not to be confused with the species of “grey squirrel,” which is from back east and can come in many colors including black and even white. Got it?).

Paul Ustach, our current-day biology instructor at Delta, speculates that what Sharon has observed are regular squirrels with high levels of the pigment melanin. That’s what makes them black — it’s the same phenomenon that produces black sheep, black panthers and black wolves. Melaninism is simply the opposite of albinism.

And the stripe? Stocking says he’s never heard of a squirrel with a stripe. “But with such things as partial albinos and probably hybrids between the various squirrels I suppose anything can happen,” he said.

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann, who forces him to go backpacking in the Sierra Nevada or Trinity Alps at every opportunity. He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in ... Read Full
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