That's because urban habitats hold fewer predators than in the past. In the late 1950s, early 1960s and again in the 1970s, officials at Michigan State University live-trapped black squirrels at the W.K. Steinmeyer said most of the members find squirrels interesting, including the black squirrels which are usually discussed at a few meetings. Since black squirrels are rare compared to other squirrels, many cities, universities, and towns have made this squirrel their mascot, and are doing their bit to publicize the local populations of these squirrels. He pointed out houses were built in many suburbs 50 to 60 years ago, the trees have matured and the areas are now similar to forests. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Are they a separate species? Squirrels vary in size and habitats preferences, but many squirrels can adapt to living near people. Squirrels are small tree animals, with a very cute bushy tail and sharp teeth. It’s an area of science that has an open question.”. “Their superpower is being able to support themselves where gray squirrels would be otherwise out-competed,” Brown said. ▸ Because melanism is a genetic mutation rather than a normal variation of a pigmentation gene, it is normally not possible for two gray squirrels to have black babies. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. ▸ Albinism, which causes creatures to appear white or very light in coloration, is considered to be the opposite of melanism. “Most people look at a squirrel and they find it fascinating,” Brassil said. In the United States, there are two main populations of black squirrels around the country in both the northern area around places like Canada, Colorado and Nebraska and in the southeastern area where forest fires are common, Brassil said. Natural selection takes over after a mutation occurs and determines whether it will be passed on. According to Brassil, while the population in the north thrives by absorbing more sunlight during the winter in colder months allowing them to be more active, the southeastern population utilizes dark patches of the environment in burnt forests to hide from predators, allowing them to camouflage within the shadow. They’ve caused Michigan visitors to do double takes, shocked locals seeing them for the first time and have even been mistaken for rats with bushy tails. Black squirrels were introduced to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., and to Michigan State University’s campus in the past where they then repopulated and increased in number. “Occasionally, instead of being bad, there will be a mutation that doesn’t cause things to break and maybe makes things a little bit better.”. “I think it’s great that a group of students wanted to put together a club with no purpose whatsoever just to do quirky, fun things,” he said.

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