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.


Explore posts in the same categories: 2013, In the City, NYC Parks, Squirrels, Wildlife/Natural History

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11 Comments on “Black Squirrel in NYC”

  1. […] UPDATE, March 2012: I finally succeed in spotting one of New York City’s lovely black squirrels. Not in Central Park but in Washington Square Park: Black Squirrel in NYC. […]

  2. Saw a white squirrel in Boston. Will share a photo soon.

  3. When I was a child there used to be a surfeit of black squirrels in the city of Toronto. Then when I began working at the mental health centre in the downtown area I discovered a bunch of white squirrels on the grounds. Myth had it that they turned white because the patients fed them their meds, untrue of course but it made a good story. They too are a colour variation, not albinos but white with dark eyes, of the grey squirrel.

    Here in Central Ontario I have red squirrels that are much more aggressive than the black and grey that have tried to move in and avail themselves of the sunflower seeds in my feeders. It’s a true delight to watch all these little critters – whatever their colour!

    • Barbara, Interesting about Toronto. Hilarious myth about the white squirrels – I love it.

      There are apparently towns or college campuses dotted around the US as well in which the squirrel population is predominantly black or, more rarely, white. Here in NYC, I’ve been told that Inwood Park has mostly black squirrels. Must be the island effect, which is certainly known to occur among some species in city parks. The population is isolated, and so achieves a high level of inbreeding after far fewer generations than a non-island population, leading to certain genetic characteristics coming to the fore. In a natural setting, an individual animal that stands out due to a color mutation is more likely to be taken by a predator and its genes less likely to be passed along to future generations. But here in the city, the relative lack of predators other than a growing raptor population means that those unusual animals survive just fine.

      I’ve heard that the American red squirrel is quite the little terror, and rules over gray squirrels despite being its smaller size.

  4. Robert Says:

    There were a couple black squirrels that I used to encounter in the North Meadow and North Woods area, and also one in Morningside Park near the upper 113th St entrance. But that was 4-5 years ago, and well, that’s a typical lifespan.

  5. He is beautiful. I used to live in the NE Bronx and we had one who used to appear on the block regularly Since I was unaware of their agrressive nature I never observed him enough to know if he displayed the trait

  6. Pilar Says:

    There are always, and have been there for several years, one or two black squirrels in Central Park, on the lawn closest to CPS between Columbus Circle and 7th avenue

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