One of the most common animals to be found in the east and Midwest of the United States is the Eastern Gray Squirrel, and is a very hardy and resilient species that adapts well to a change in habitat. This particular squirrel has also proved to be very successful living in Canada, and has proved to be quite dominant over native species when introduced in Great Britain and Italy.
Appearance And Biology:
The Eastern Gray Squirrel has a coat that is generally gray, although it does carry a hint of red that is especially apparent in the large bushy tail. The distinctive squirrel face with intelligent eyes and pricked up ears has been one reason that it has inspired many cartoon adaptations. The hind legs are much larger and stronger than the front legs, which are generally used for balance and for eating.
The coat of the Eastern Gray Squirrel has been known to evolve when a population is living in an urban area, with white and black coats often being seen. This black coated variation is quite common in Canada. The squirrel can move very quickly, the strong hind legs mean they can bound up trees without problem. The large bushy tail is often nearly as large as the body itself, which can grow to be around a foot long.
Life Cycle And Behavior:
The lifespan of the Eastern Gray Squirrel is generally up to around 12 to 13 years in the wild, although those that have been raised and live in captivity will often exceed 20 years old. The species has two mating seasons a year, the first in the winter months from December to February, and the second mating season in early summer. The litters can actually be quite large, with up to eight young being born after a gestation period between six and seven weeks.
One interesting feature of the Eastern Gray Squirrel is that it can descend a tree in a forwards motion, as it actually turns its feet to get a better grip on the bark. These squirrels create a nest of twigs and leaves among the high branches of a tree, known as a drey. In urban areas squirrels have been known to nest in the quiet parts of homes, such as an attic or in an exterior wall.
Habitat And Diet:
The Eastern Gray Squirrel is hugely successful in many different kinds of habitat, although it is normally found in wooded and forested areas. The original habitat was in the east and Midwest of the United States, although the species has been introduced to Italy, Britain and Canada where it has almost replaced the native squirrels.
Although squirrels are typically known to eat nuts, they do actually eat a range of other foods including tree bark, some fungi and seeds. The squirrel will generally collect its food in the early and late part of the day, tending to rest during the hours where the sun is at its hottest. The common trait of squirrels is that they will store away caches of foods to be eaten at a later time, some of which will be returned to quite quickly, while others can be kept for quite some time.
There are many humans who have come to see the Eastern Gray Squirrel as a pest, both for the way it has displaced red squirrels and for its scavenging in urban areas. This squirrel has proved itself to be a very durable and resilient species that is comfortable in many different habitats, and is much more than pest that many portrayals of the Eastern Gray depict.
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