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Monday, November 26, 2012


Northern and Southern flying squirrel
ranges in the the United States.
Range map credit:
I couldn’t come up with a more creative title for all of the cool pictures I’m about to share. Over the course of the past couple weeks, I was able to capture 3, possibly 4, different species of squirrels on my Cuddeback Attack flash camera trap!

I believe there are a total of 6 species of arboreal (tree-dwelling) squirrels in New York: gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), fox squirrel (Sciurus niger), red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), Northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus), Southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans), and the Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus).

I can say say with certainty that I have gotten the gray and red squirrel. The 3rd and possibly 4th species are of flying squirrel. In New York State, we have both the Northern and Southern. The maps at left show how the two species overlap into NY. Both species extend into Canada, but the Northern moreso.

Also, I should add that there aren’t any Eastern chipmunks showing up anymore this year because I believe they’re all tucked into their dens hibernating!

I modified the flash by taping
~2/3 over the flash with black electrical tape.
I recently wrote about and shared the preliminary results of messing with a nontraditional mounting of the camera, check that out here: A different perspective…. This was the trial period of playing with the flash (it’s way too bright for close range critters), and how to mount the camera (on it’s back looking up the trunk of the tree).

I got some interesting color variations of the two more well known squirrels…a black squirrel (actually a gray!) and an orange (actually a red!) squirrel. Sometimes people have a hard time understanding how this works. A squirrel that is black, should be called a black squirrel, right? Well you can call it that, but it’s genetics tell us it is the same species as the gray…just a different variation of color. I’m a blonde, you might be a brunette, a red-head, or gray. Those are all just variations of the color. Unfortunately, when people were first discovering plants and animals, they named them as they saw them. Gray squirrel, red fox, bluebird, white-tailed deer. All of these animals can and will show up from time to time a different color.

Anyway, here they are!

A black, gray squirrel.

A very orange, red squirrel.

Red squirrel again...

And most likely the same black squirrel again...

These top 4 pictures are taken from atop a cinder block at the base of the tree. That large branch at the right of the picture is where the camera was mounted for the rest of the pictures. That branch is ~8-9 feet off the ground.

Flying squirrel! Species unknown.

Flying squirrel again, species still unknown.

Flying squirrels are next to impossible to identify to the species level "in the field", as they say. Perhaps those who study flyers know a way to do so. The only way I know, besides examining their DNA, requires you to be handling the squirrel. You blow gently into their belly fur (both species have a buff colored underside), but when the hairs are parted, the Northern reveals a dark gray base to the fur. But, that's a difficult way to ID a wild animal.

A true gray squirrel.
The only complaint I have about these images is that because the lens is pointing directly skyward, as the squirrels ascend and descend the trunk, bits of bark come loose and drop onto the camera. The lens is recessed into the casing of the camera a little bit, so these pieces and condensation can collect here. You can see in the last picture a dark spot in the upper left hand corner. A small price to pay for some neat photos! Now that I have the flash issue figured out, I'll be messing with this angle MUCH more and trying to lure the flying squirrels in for a closer look.


  1. Wonderful you have the flash sorted out, love every one, they are beautiful animals, and I can just see you doing a belly-hair- blowing test!!!Do they hibernate, as I thought by the term " squirrel it away for the winter"? Waiting for more, photos that is... Greetings from Jean

    1. Jean that phase "squirreling it away for winter" refers to the food they store. It's called a "cash" where they keep the nuts, seeds, and whatever else they collect.

  2. Cute picture of a flying squirrel!

    Nice trapping set.

    BTW....the location for NCUR this year is a city I know well. Your post reminds me that there used to be tons and tons of the black morph eastern gray squirrels on campus.

    1. You have reminded me to get working on that application...perhaps we'll be able to meet up! La Crosse??

  3. Those are great images. I've seen a few black squirrels in person but haven't seen one in years. Thanks for sharing.


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