Eastern Gray Squirrel

Common Name - Eastern Gray Squirrel

Category - Mammals

ScientificName - Sciurus carolinensis

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Rodentia

Family - Sciuridae

Genus - Sciurus

Species - carolinensis


Description - Gray to brown in color above, white under parts; long bushy tail tipped with white; some individuals may exhibit a black phase (melanism) and some may lack pigment altogether (albinism); 22 teeth including large incisor teeth on both top and bottom jaws

Size - 8 – 10 in. (20.32 – 25.4 cm) head and body length; 7.5 – 10 in. (19.05 – 25.4 cm) tail length; 0.75 – 1.5 lb. (340 – 680.4g) weight

Ecological Role - The gray squirrel is arboreal; that is, it spends much of its time in the canopy of trees and often descending to the ground to gather or bury food. Owls, hawks, foxes, rattlesnakes, coyote, and bobcats prey upon gray squirrels. Some of the nuts and acorns that the gray squirrel buries are not recovered and sprout into new trees. This is an important role in the propagation of new trees.

Fun Facts - The gray squirrel stores nuts and acorns in small holes in the ground for the winter and can smell a buried nut under a foot of snow. Cuttings of acorn or nutshells underneath a tree signal the presence of the gray squirrel. Squirrels obtain minerals in their diet by chewing on bones left behind when an animal dies. The gray squirrel is active in the day and can swim well for short distances. Squirrels migrate if population numbers are high and food sources are not available. A gray squirrel’s home range is approximately 2 – 7 acres (0.8 – 2.8 ha). Gray squirrels are an important small game mammal and are hunted in Kentucky. The gray squirrel became the official wild game species of Kentucky in 1968 and is the state mammal.

Food - Nuts and acorns; seeds and fruits of elm, apple, maple, hickory, sassafras, beech, dogwood, hackberry, wild cherry, walnut, mulberry, viburnum; buds of maple, elm, pine, and oak; fungi, and the cambium layer beneath the bark of trees, occasionally bird eggs and insects such as beetles and ants

Cover - Nests are used to raise young, hide from predators, and as protection from weather; male and female build winter and summer nests; winter nests are in tree cavities or in trees high off the ground, made of plant fibers and shredded bark; summer nests are large and made of leaves high off the ground in the branches of trees


Breeding - Early January and again in July; males chase females for 1 – 3 days before mating; young are born in 44 days


Habitat - Hardwood forest with nut trees (oak-hickory forests are favored); urban areas such as city parks and backyards with nut producing trees

Kentucky Distribution - Statewide

Life Cycle

Life Span

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes - The diet of the gray squirrel changes with the season, depending upon availability of food. During the fall there is an increase in gathering and burying of nuts. The gray squirrel does not hibernate, but will move from the summer nest to the winter dens.


Status - Common


Voice - Short barks when excited; kwa-ak, kwa-ak, kwa-ak, kwa-ak, ak-ak-ak-ak-ak

Young - Born March – April and September; 2 litters of 3 – 5 per year; born blind and naked; weigh 0.5 oz. (14 g); eyes open at 32 days; female raises young, male provides no parental care; young leave nest at 45 days; live 1 – 2 years

What We Can Do - Cats and dogs are often predators of the gray squirrel. Obey hunting regulations. The hunting of the gray squirrel is regulated in Kentucky with a spring and fall season.


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

Contributed By

Website - http://campus.murraystate.edu/