If you came to this page looking for a feature on George Clooney, Harrison Ford or Sean Connery then sorry to disappoint you – this is the wrong place! This particular silver fox has been around a good deal longer than the movies though its story could be easily made in to a film without a doubt. You could also be under the impression that the silver fox is a species related to the red fox. There, too, you would be mistaken. They are the same species.
Ark In Space reader Cindy Webler of Pittsburgh spotted this cheeky little guy in her yard and on her deck recently and thought she would share his morning activities with you. Black squirrels are pretty rare - it is thought that only one in a thousand of the US and Canadian squirrel population is black, but the numbers do seem to be increasing gradually. Judging from Cindy's pictures, they are becoming more and more fearless too!
Rather than being a new phenomenon, it is thought that when Europeans first came to Americas that, in all likelihood, the majority of squirrels at the time were black. They had adapted to the dense and lush forests of the continent and since then have slowly changed color as we have encroached upon and changed their territory.
Contrary to what many people think, the black squirrel is not a separate species on its own. It is what is known as a melanistic sub-group. It is simply the outward appearance of an abundance of melanin in the squirrel - the substance that gives animals their color. You can think of melanism as being the opposite of albinism, which is where melanin is lacking or simply not there.
This form of melanism is useful to the black squirrels of the world. They are able to take in more solar radiation than greys and that means that they stay warmer and so can live in colder areas. Also, because of this they do not need as much food either - even though this guy needs to have the odd free drink of water to survive.
Many thanks to Cindy for these great pictures. You can see more of the black squirrels here or by clicking on any of the pictures above.