Eastern Gray Squirrels

Scientific Name
Sciurus carolinensis
Also Known As
American Squirrel, Black Squirrel
Range
All of Florida
Diet
Tree parts, Fruits, Insects, Bird Eggs, Corn
Life Expectancy
6 - 12 Years
The Eastern Gray Squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel conservation status - Least Concern

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Eastern Gray Squirrels in Central Florida

The eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is a prolific tree squirrel native to eastern North America. In central Florida, eastern gray squirrels thrive in urban and suburban neighborhoods where they frequently interact with humans. This adaptable rodent is recognized by its predominantly gray fur and large bushy tail.

While eastern grays provide entertainment to some, they can also cause frustrations by nesting in attics and gnawing on property. Read on to learn about eastern gray squirrel identification, biology, behavior, health risks, and control methods relevant to central Florida homeowners.

Eastern Gray Squirrel Subspecies

Florida Gray Squirrel

Photo 28314467 (c) Steve Hofhine, CC BY-NC

Florida Gray Squirrel

The Florida gray squirrel is a subspecies of the eastern gray squirrel found only in certain areas of Florida. Its range centers on oak-cabbage palm hammocks and freshwater marshes in central and southern parts of the state.

Compared to other eastern gray squirrels, the Florida gray is smaller in size and has more gray fur overall. Within Florida, it is one of the smaller tree squirrel species. Research indicates the Florida population is genetically unique and adapted to the tropical hardwood hammocks and wetlands found in its range.

Due to its limited area in Florida and distinct genetics, the Florida gray squirrel is an important subspecies to conserve in the state.

Appearance and Identification

Eastern Gray Squirrels can be distinguished from other tree squirrels by their size and coloration

Adult Eastern Gray Squirrel

Adult Eastern Gray Squirrel

  • Size: Adults measure from 9 to 12 inches (23 to 30 cm) long including the tail, weighing between 1 to 1.5 pounds (0.5 to 0.7 kg).
  • Tail: The tail comprises over one-third of the body length at 3 to 7 inches (8 to 18 cm). It is long and bushy.
  • Fur: Thick fur overlaid with longer guard hairs. Varying mixes of gray, brown, and white hairs create a salt-and-pepper, grizzled appearance. Belly fur is white to pale gray.
  • Eyes: Prominent dark eyes. White fur outlines the eyes.
  • Ears: Small rounded ears, often tufted in winter.
  • Feet: Sharp clawed toes provide dexterity and grip when climbing. Tracks show four front toes and five rear toes.
Juvenile Eastern Gray Squirrel

Juvenile Eastern Gray Squirrel

  • Size: At birth, eastern gray squirrels weigh just over 1 ounce (28 grams) and have a body length around 2 inches (5 cm). They reach 9-10 inches (23-25 cm) long including the tail by 12 weeks old.
  • Fur: Juvenile fur appears more brownish, without the grizzled hairs seen in adults. The fur is short and soft as they grow.
  • Features: Younger squirrels have larger heads, feet, and ears relative to their smaller body size. The coat lacks the banded, grizzled pattern of adults.

The combination of largely gray fur, bushy tail, and excellent climbing adaptions separate the eastern gray from fox squirrels and southern flying squirrels in central Florida.

Maturation Rate

Baby eastern gray squirrels develop rapidly under the warm central Florida climate. Their fur grows in after about 3 weeks. Eyes open and ears unfold at around 4 weeks old.

By 6 to 8 weeks, juveniles are starting to explore outside the nest and nibble on solid foods. Weaning is usually complete by 10 weeks as they learn to forage.

Young squirrels reach adult size by 16 to 20 weeks old. They leave the nest and establish independent territories by that time. Reproductive maturity occurs by 1 year of age.