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When Do Black Squirrels Mate?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

When do black squirrels mate? A black squirrel is a North American squirrel that belongs to the family Sciuridae. Black squirrels are not a distinct species of squirrel, but a color variation of the gray squirrel.

Black coated squirrels are not as common as gray ones. Most people see fewer of them, so they attract more attention. The black squirrel is most common in certain areas such as Michigan and Ontario, Canada, where it's also referred to as "charcoal gray" or "chocolate" squirrel. The name describes its deep brown to black coat color, which comes from the pigment melanin in its hair shafts and fur.

Black Squirrels Have a Gene Mutation That Gives Them a Black Coat

Black squirrels have a mutation in a gene that codes for pigment production. Due to this mutation, the squirrels produce excessive amounts of dark pigment that gives them a black or deep brown color. This is called melanism.

Black squirrels can have one copy of the mutated gene that causes excess pigment production, or two copies of the mutant gene. If they have a single copy, their fur will be dark brown in color. If they have two copies, their fur will be dark black or jet black. Either way, their fur will be darker than the common gray squirrel.

Black Squirrels Can Mate with Gray Squirrels

People often wonder whether black squirrels’ mate with gray squirrels. Yes, they can and do! Black squirrels have the same mating habits as gray squirrels. This isn’t surprising since black squirrels are gray squirrels with a mutation that gives them a darker coat color.

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The main difference between the two is the color of their coat. Just as some humans have dark hair and some have lighter hair, but are still the same species, the same is true for black and gray squirrels. Black squirrels are not a unique species of squirrel, so they have the same mating habits.

When do black squirrels mate? Female squirrels’ of both colors (gray and black) mate in the summer, usually in May or June, and again in late winter, often in January when the temperatures are cold and there's snow on the ground. The gestation period for gray and black squirrels is around 40 days. A mother squirrel will give birth to 2 to 7 tiny babies.

Do Black Squirrels Have Advantages in the Squirrel Kingdom?

Although black squirrels are gray squirrels with a mutation that affects hair color, such mutations can affect other aspects of a squirrel’s personality or function. For example, there is evidence that the genetic mutation that causes black squirrels to be black gives them an advantage in the wild.

For example, black squirrels produce more body heat than white squirrels. This is beneficial during long, cold winters when they need to conserve heat to stay warm. Black as a pigment also absorbs more heat from the environment, just as a black car sitting in the sun becomes hotter than a white one.

One downside of being a black squirrel is their shiny black fur causes them to stand out more. This could make them more susceptible to being killed by a predator. Yet there's also evidence that black squirrels are more aggressive, and their more assertive nature could give them some protection against predators. This is an area that needs more research.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now know when black squirrels mate and give birth. Along with their gray counterparts, they mate twice per year in the winter and summer and give birth around 40 days after conceiving. The young squirrels will enter the world helpless but will gradually adapt to life as a squirrel and take on the characteristics that make all squirrels so endearing. If you're lucky enough to spot one, take a photo!

Have you ever spotted a black squirrel?

References:

  • McRobie, Helen; Thomas, Alison; Kelly, Jo (2009). "The genetic basis of melanism in the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)". Journal of Heredity. 100 (6): 709–714. doi:10.1093/jhered/esp059. PMID 19643815.
  • Cristina; Coussons, Peter J.; Moncrief, Nancy D.; Thomas, Alison P. M. (2014). "Melanocortin 1 Receptor (MC1R) Gene Sequence Variation and Melanism in the Gray (Sciurus carolinensis), Fox (Sciurus niger), and Red (Sciurus vulgaris) Squirrel". Journal of Heredity. 105 (3): 423–8. doi:10.1093/jhered/esu006. PMID 24534267.
  • Barkham, Patrick (13 August 2019). "Black squirrel 'super' species? No, just a darker shade of grey". www.msn.com. Microsoft.

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