Dear John/white-tailed squirrelsPublished 9:03pm Thursday, June 28, 2012
Why does Courtland Street have white-tailed squirrels?
— Linda Losey
I thought this one would be easy to answer.
First, I consulted Emily Hardke, resident squirrel expert at Sarett Nature Center near Benton Harbor.
Though a post on Linda’s Facebook page said they were definitely fox squirrels, I came away from my conversation with Emily convinced they are grey squirrels, since greys have white underbellies.
Foxes, the largest of tree squirrels, tend to heavily-wooded habitat, while greys — or grays — are more frequently found in more populated areas, like across the street from Donald Lyons Health Center.
Emily said it’s “kind of unusual” and probably a “genetic glitch.”
Two possess pale tails. One looks like it’s wearing white pants.
Another, with a white ring, they nicknamed “Cottontail,” but it was struck and killed by a car.
“We’ve never seen anything like it in the 14 years we’ve lived here,” said Linda, whose husband, George, is a retired police officer.
Greys are larger, 18 inches long with half of it in tails, and shy compared to red squirrels, which are more territorial and aggressive. Neither hibernates.
Greys are actually salt-and-pepper dotted with wiry tan hairs. They like oak trees and others which bear nuts. Trees where they cavort in Losey’s yard are maples.
Fox squirrels, which love walnuts, are “rufous,” including red, orange and yellowish pink undertones, with reddish-orange bellies. Foxes are terrific at reforestation in that they bury nuts for later and forget to find them.
Did you know squirrels are probably the most plentiful mammal in the world?
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