Black Squirrel in NYC
A year ago, I went hunting for black squirrels in Central Park, but to no avail. Then in January, I finally spotted one as I walked along the south side of Washington Square Park. It was dusk and I only had my iPhone, so the photos I took that evening are blurry, as you can see below.
Last week, I was again walking along the south side of Washington Square, keeping my eyes open for a black squirrel. I watched a fat robin for a while.
And then I saw a solitary black squirrel, sitting on a bench with a snack.
The squirrel soon hopped down into a little clearing, where it joined the robin and a gray squirrel.
The black squirrel seemed to be keeping the gray on its toes. Several times it dashed toward the gray, making it run.
Black squirrels have a bizarre anecdotal reputation for being more aggressive than grays. This is peculiar, since black squirrels are grays. They are not a separate species, but a color morph of Sciuris carolinensis, the Eastern gray squirrel. Yet there seems to be a belief that along with the color mutation has come a personality shift. In the UK, where gray squirrels are considered an invasive species, both grays and blacks are reviled for causing a worrisome decline in the population of native red squirrels. The larger gray squirrel out-competes the red squirrel for habitat and has infected it with “squirrel pox,” a disease for which the red has no immunity.
But black squirrels commonly seen as aggressive even to gray squirrels. It does seem to be true that the population of black squirrels in the UK is growing faster than that of the gray squirrel, but scientists have no clear answer for why this should be. Researchers have begun assembling a black squirrel DNA data base to to try to learn more.
Meanwhile, I’m simply thrilled to watch this beautiful little animal.
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