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Archive - March 2020

eastern gray squirrel Sciurus carolinensis

What is an Eastern Gray Squirrel?
An eastern gray squirrel is a mammal. Like all mammals, it has four limbs (legs). It has hair (fur). Its body temperature is kept at the same level regardless of the outside temperature. Its young are born after developing inside the mother's body in a special organ called the uterus. After birth, the young are fed with milk produced in the female’s mammary glands. It has a complex brain.

What does It Look Like?
The fur on the body is gray. The belly fur is white. There is a cream-colored line around each eye and a white tip on the back of each ear. The tail is bushy with gray fur. There is white fur along the border of the tail.

How Big is It?
The adult eastern gray squirrel has a head-body length of 8-11 inches. Its tail is 8-11 inches long. The weight of an adult eastern gray squirrel is about 12 ounces to 1.6 pounds.

Where does It Live?
The eastern gray squirrel may be found statewide in Illinois. It lives in woods or forests with a closed canopy, nut-bearing trees and a good number of trees with cavities. This species is commonly found in cities, where it lives in trees.

How does It Reproduce?
Mating occurs in January and again in June or July. Females that are two years old or older produce two litters per year. Females that are one year old usually breed once in that year. Males often chase females during the breeding season, and females may “bark” while being chased. Two or three young are born after a gestation period of about six weeks. The young can feed on their own after about two months. The young are raised in a leaf nest, tree cavity or humanmade nest box.

What does It Eat?
Eastern gray squirrels eat a variety of foods including tree buds, leaves, fruits, berries, fungi, pecans, acorns, hickory nuts, tree bark, walnuts and seeds of other trees.

Does Anything Eat It?
This species serves as a food source for several predators, some of whom focus on the young squirrels. These animals include hawks, weasels, raccoons, foxes, domestic and feral cats, snakes, owls and dogs. Humans hunt and eat squirrels, too.

What Else should I Know About It?

  • This species stores nuts in holes in the ground.
  • It uses its front paws to hold food while eating it.
  • Its tail is used for balance in climbing trees, walking on wires or other aerial activities.
  • The eastern gray squirrel is active during the day year-round but may sleep for several consecutive days in winter.
  • Its call is “kuk-kuk-cut-cut-cut.”
  • It builds a leaf nest in tree branches but may use a tree cavity for resting, raising young and avoiding inclement weather, too.
  • This species can climb down a tree trunk head-first as well as climbing upward head-first.

Can I hunt It?
The eastern gray squirrel may be legally hunted in Illinois following all relevant laws and regulations. Specific hunting information about the eastern gray squirrel is included in the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations.

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