Which one have you seen…Big Foot…a Unicorn…or Black Squirrel…
The first time you see one a level of excitement hits you as if you actually have just spotted a unicorn or perhaps the first really good sighting anyone has ever had of Big Foot. But no, it’s just a black squirrel.
Black squirrels are not as rare as you might think and once you catch a glimpse of one in your neighborhood you are likely to spot it many times throughout the year. Outside of the color difference, the black squirrel has the same makeup as the grey squirrel except for the excessive pigmentation that causes the color difference according to Mass Audubon.
According to Mass Audubon, the black squirrel descended from a pair of black-phase gray squirrels who were transported from Michigan to Stanley Park in Westfield in 1948. The mating squirrels lead to the population of black squirrels in the western parts of Massachusetts including the Berkshires and are believed to be related to the original Westfield squirrels.
In addition to the black and grey squirrel, you may also encounter a white squirrel. According to Mass Audubon, they simply have a reduced amount of dark pigment. In order to be a true albino, the squirrel would also have pink eyes according to Mass Audubon.
Some believe that because the black coat allows a squirrel to absorb more heat from the sun in the winter allowing for a high survival rate. Most black squirrels are found in western Mass and other northern regions of the country. The survival rate of the black squirrel is also believed to be higher because drivers will go to greater lengths to avoid hitting one in a roadway.
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Gallery Credit: Hannah Lang
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