Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis


A medium sized tree squirrel. The eastern gray squirrel has fur that is gray in color; some individuals can have orange tips on their fur, giving them a reddish color. Many gray squirrels have a straw colored ring around their eyes. There is no sexual dimorphism (both males and females look the same). 


Found in the Eastern U.S. and to the West of the Mississippi River, also found in Canada, Italy, Scotland, England and Ireland. They prefer large hardwood forests, preferring walnut and oak trees. Gray squirrels build leaf nests on limbs 30-45 feet above ground and another inside the trees as a den. They may share their nest

Feeding Behavior and Diet

They typically eat nuts, seeds, fruits of hickory, beech, oak, black walnut, tulip tree, sugar maple, flowering dogwood, buckeye, wild grape, pawpaw, persimmon, butternut, and black cherry. They also consume herbaceous plants and fungi. Eastern gray squirrels are omnivorous and occasionally insects are consumed. They may also consume bones, bird eggs, nestlings and frogs. They bury food in caches by ‘scatter hoarding’ for the winter and locate these caches again by using memory and smell.


Gray squirrels are polygamous (mating with more than one partner), breeding occurs twice a year during December- January and May-June. Litters of 2-3 young are born after 44 days, usually in February-March and July-August. Gray squirrels can have 2 litters of about 2-4 young per year for 8 years. Lactating females are very aggressive and are avoided by other squirrels. Young are weaned at 7 weeks old.  Females can reproduce at 5 months old while the males are sexually mature at 11 months. Gray squirrels form a dominance hierarchy and sexual maturity of young can be delayed for 2 years if there is a dominant male present.

Months and Times of Activity

The peak activity times are 2 hours after sunrise and 2-5 hours before sunset during the spring, summer and autumn to avoid the heat of the day. During the winter they are diurnal with a peak activity time 2-4 hours before sunset. Females are more active during the summer while males are more active during the winter.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

o    Gray squirrel is one of the most populous species of wildlife in Ohio.
o    This species emits warning calls to alert others when a predator is near.
o    Some believe that if a gray squirrel’s body has become fat and the tail very bushy in the months before winter can be an indication of a harsh winter. However, the weight gain and tail bushiness are not an indication of the severity of winter, the squirrel has gained weight to prepare for winter, but has no knowing of what the winter will be like.
o    Children’s book about a eastern gray squirrel: Miss Suzy by Miriam Young


"Â Eastern Gray Squirrel." Department of Natural Rescouces, n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013
Lawniczak, M. 2002. "Sciurus carolinensis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at
"Strange Weather Folklore and Facts and How to Predict Weather at Home." Squidoo. Squidoo, LLC, 2012. Web. 05 Feb. 2013.