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Do Squirrels Change Color? – 5 Secrets Exposed

Color change is a unique occurrence in the animal kingdom. To some species of animals, it marks the transition into adulthood. To others, a measure for staying safe. And to some, it may mean a sickness that needs urgent attention. Whatever the case may be, “do squirrels change color? If they do, from what color to what and why?

Imagine you are busy having fun with your squirrel pet, and all of a sudden, its color changes; what would you do? Of course, changing color isn’t a thing for every animal. If you are wondering if squirrels do change color, the same question has been asked by many people.

I’m delighted to share with you about this topic. Nothing escapes me when it comes to squirrels, even if I have to exhaust myself with research. Expect more from my article.

This article has been reviewed by Dr. Linda. Read more about our knowledge control process here.

What Color are Squirrels?

I’m not sure how many squirrels you have spotted with different colors, but their colors are highly variable. Squirrels’ population is very high, and these rodents are native to all the world’s continents, except Oceania and Antarctica.

Moreover, not all continents have the same squirrel species. For instance, gray squirrels are limited to Ireland, England, Northern Italy, Scotland, Germany, France, etc. 

Our interest isn’t to study which squirrels are in which continent, but I’m trying to justify that squirrels in your area might differ from others in different localities. At least a good number of squirrel species vary in their colors.

So, what color are squirrels? Grey and brown are the leading colors, followed by rarer red. Other colors include black, white, etc. A squirrel can typically be one color or possesses several different colors.

For example, gray squirrels are typically grey, but it’s not magical to find one that is brown. It is the genes that are responsible for the distinct colors in squirrels.

Squirrels facts with physical appearance [source: ZoneA]

Do Squirrels Change Color?

Now, back to our concern, do squirrels change color? And if yes, what color do they change to, and is it temporary or permanent?

A few animals like a chameleon, flounders, seahorses, golden tortoise beetle, etc., are famous for manipulating their skin color. And mostly, they do that to blend with their typical environment where predators can hardly identify them.

Likewise, squirrels may change their color and appearance for a particular reason. These small charming critters may look unusual during the winter season, but this doesn’t affect all species.

Perhaps you are wondering what I mean by saying a squirrel appearing unusual in winter times? Squirrels need to cope with the extreme cold in winter, which is made possible through a few changes in the body.

The coat lengthens and thickens and, in some species, becomes lighter. Also, tufts hairs at the back of the ears are longer and brighter for a windbreak. That’s how these animals keep warm during winter. The normal body appearance resumes in summer.

Do squirrels change color?
Do squirrels change color?

Are Squirrels Color Blind?

Asking if human beings are color blind would be a straightforward question for almost everyone. However, wanting to know whether squirrels are color blind might sound crazy, but it’s an interesting question.

We often see squirrels collecting food from our homesteads, and they do it with no struggle. Are we thinking along the same line? Generally, these creatures have an excellent vision but are unable to distinguish between red and green.

They can identify red and green from other colors very well, but not between the two colors. And this qualifies them to be called color blind. Researchers have proven squirrels to be dichromatic in vision.

Having dichromatic vision means that squirrels possess two types of cones in their eyes which are responsible for color vision.

Why Do Squirrels Turn Black?

At first, when someone asked me this question, I was taking it as a joke. Like how would a whole gray squirrel shift its color to black? Is that even possible? You don’t need to think deeply; it does happen.

Squirrels turning black have been seen among the gray squirrels, and it happens as a result of cross-species courtship. According to scientists, turning to black color is noticeable in gray squirrels due to gene mutation.

The color-changing mutation is believed to originate from fox squirrels and spread to gray squirrels through mating. A male black fox squirrel copulated with a female gray squirrel. 

Therefore, the black color is simply evidence of the faulty pigment gene from fox squirrels.

What is the Color of Squirrel Eyes?

Most squirrels have black eyes. However, albino squirrels have red eyes.
Most squirrels have black eyes. However, albino squirrels have red eyes.

If you are keen on looking at squirrel eyes, you may have realized that most of them have black eyes. This is true for all squirrel species, except for albino squirrels whose eyes are red.

However, it does not mean that squirrel eyes are only black or white. Some squirrels are blue-eyed, but this appears strange for many people, especially at first encounter.

For such squirrels, it’s the irises that appear blue, and this is linked to genetic albinism. Thus, a squirrel with blue eyes has genes for albinism, but they are partially expressed.

Now, next time you see a blue-eyed squirrel, don’t take it as a mystery. They are there, and you can come across them anytime.

Are White Squirrels Albinos?

An albino squirrel with red eyes
An albino squirrel with red eyes. But you must know that white squirrels aren’t albinos and wouldn’t have red eyes.

Some people might refer white squirrels to be albinos, but this is a mistake; the two are entirely different species.

Albinos are unable to make melanin, a dark coloring pigment in the body. Hence, their coat is white and their eyes pink. Albino squirrels have poor vision, and it’s problematic for them to jump from one tree to another.

On the other hand, white squirrels have normal black eyes. They have perfect eye-sight, unlike albinos. A white squirrel’s body may be generally white or have patches of a pigmented coat.

Wrapping Up

I genuinely don’t take it for granted that you have been patient enough to read my article. Did you find it insightful? I hope you did.

Squirrels are largely adorable critters that capture the attention of many people; they are fun to watch. However, that’s not all about squirrels; they have abundant fun facts. We have seen that they can change color to keep warm during winter.

Also, squirrels vary in their eyes and coat color. The fur color is highly variable depending on species, but a big population of these animals has black eyes.

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