Feb
06
2008

Last week, I received a forwarded E-mail message from the main museum call center. Ms. Patrice Gitaitis wrote:

"I found your site 'Science Buzz' while searching for information regarding squirrels and their coloring. Your describer is incorrect in the Winter 2005-2006 [phenology] edition when stating that grey squirrels have white ears in winter only in areas where it snows. I am in deep South Georgia and watch the white-eared grey squirrels from my window every day! I will admit this is the first year I have noticed the white ears, but my computer is also in a different space so I can actually see them. This might be an interesting investigation to pursue."

Grey squirrel: Are Buzzers in the south seeing gray squirrels with white ear tufts, or are they seeing fox squirrels? What are you seeing in your neighborhood?
Grey squirrel: Are Buzzers in the south seeing gray squirrels with white ear tufts, or are they seeing fox squirrels? What are you seeing in your neighborhood?Courtesy Photos.com

So I wrote to Dick Oehlenschlager, our Biology Curator (and the "describer" mentioned above). Oehlenschlager's response?

"This is interesting, but I'm curious if the ears are truly white or pale yellowish buff colored. (Yellowish buff colored ears are found farther south than the fully white ones.) Also, one cannot rule out the transport and release of specimens from outside their normal areas of distribution, with their genetic traits persisting until their death, and with resulting progeny perhaps carrying on the trait."

Hey, buzzers! Are you seeing white-eared squirrels? And where do you live?

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (6 votes)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

New development...
Yesterday, Dick Oehlenschlager told me,

I just found an interesting statement regarding fox squirrels which, in the southern states, look like gray squirrels but always have white ears. Perhaps the viewer was seeing fox squirrels, not gray squirrels?

I forwarded that information to Ms. Gitaitis, and she replied,

"I am in no way even close to being a squirrel expert, and it's quite possible that we have fox squirrels. How would I tell them apart? It is the very first time I have seen white ears...EVER, as I am a native here. At any rate, this is a very interesting development and I am intrigued that these cute little things choose my yard to play and eat in."

Here's some identification information:
Fox squirrels
Eastern gray squirrels
Looks like it's maybe pretty tough to tell them apart?

And now, if you're intrigued by all these squirrel-ly details, check out the February 2008 "Object of the Month": a set of flying squirrels.

posted on Wed, 02/06/2008 - 12:59pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

And Ms. Gitaitis wrote back:

"The squirrels I am seeing are, if the descriptions are correct, gray squirrels. They have bright white tummies from their upper neck to the groin area.

This is FUN!!!"

I'm going to ask her to post a photo, and then we'll get Dick Oehlenschlager to weigh in again.

posted on Thu, 02/07/2008 - 10:34am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have photos of the squirrels with white fur at the base of their ears, but cannot find a way to attach it. Send instructions for attaching and I will be happy to send them to you.

It has been 80 degrees here for 2 out of the last 3 weeks. So I doubt the white has anything to do with winter, but suspect it is related to mating. This is the first time I have seen it also.

posted on Thu, 03/26/2009 - 4:25pm
clhj's picture
clhj says:

Right now (Feb 08), my backyard is serving as a soft release site for 3 squirrels raised at a wild animal rehabilitation center here in metro Atlanta. One of the them most definitely has white, white ears, which I have never seen around here before (since mid 90s). I was surprised and interested to see his ears.

posted on Sun, 03/23/2008 - 7:24am
janet's picture
janet says:

I have a quick question... Are there any squirrels in Mexico????

posted on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 1:23pm
janet's picture
janet says:

There is a snow white squirrle by my house.
My question.... Is it albino??? Or Just a white squirrel
???

posted on Wed, 10/15/2008 - 1:25pm
randy pandy's picture
randy pandy says:

I have never seen a white eared gray squirrel until this week. Did someone plant these all over the nation? Are they normal? Whats going on?

posted on Fri, 11/14/2008 - 11:35am
sallie's picture
sallie says:

I, too am seeing white eared squirrels for the first time this year. When I first saw them, I knew something was different, but it took a few minutes to realize what it was. I live in central New Jersey.

posted on Mon, 01/26/2009 - 6:21pm
Allan 's picture
Allan says:

I saw a squirrel with white behind its ears today, 11/23/10. I live a few miles outside of NYC in New Jersey. I can't remember having seen one before.

posted on Tue, 11/23/2010 - 11:18am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have been watching 5 or 6 squirrels plucking raw peanuts on the fence and burying them. They are too funny to watch. Like my cat's, they know what time I get home and peep into my window waiting for me to put out the nuts. They crack me up! They provide endless amusement for my critters. I grew up in New York and squirrels in the attic was something normal. I did notice a little one with white ears. I am 59 years old and have never seen a squirrel with white ears. I live Florida. The ears are white, not yellowish.

posted on Thu, 12/08/2011 - 4:12pm
randy pandy's picture
randy pandy says:

Oh, im in houston texas

posted on Fri, 11/14/2008 - 11:36am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I live near Houston,Tx and this the first time I've ever seen our grey squirrels with white tufts behind their ears. We have a squirrel feeder in our back yard and we see them every day. Are we in for a really cold winter? Maybe snow?

posted on Fri, 12/23/2011 - 7:40am
Luke's picture
Luke says:

I have a mix of typical gray squirrels and gray squirrels with white ears...not stark white ears but not yellowish either. More white than yellow anyhow. One of my squirrel feeders is right outside my kitchen window and I can observe them clearly from a distance of ~5 feet. The squirrel mix in my yard is roughly 40% white-eared variety, 60% gray squirrels. I'm in Summerville, SC (20 miles inland from Charleston). I don't recall seeing as many of these white-eared squirrels before.

Fox squirrels are indigenous to the local area but usually not in residential neighborhoods and definitely not in my area. I have seen them in wooded locales and on undeveloped barrier islands like Bulls Island.

I have as many squirrel feeders as I do bird feeders in the yard. Summerville is designated bird and squirrel sanctuary. The food of choice - black oil sunflower seeds.

posted on Mon, 01/05/2009 - 4:27pm
vicky's picture
vicky says:

I live in London UK and the two grey squirrels in my garden have just developed a bright white patch on each of their ears over the past few days. It's been very cold here, maybe that's the reason. I've never seen this before and there isn't much on the web about it.

posted on Thu, 01/29/2009 - 2:54pm
RWJ's picture
RWJ says:

I live in Florida along the Gulf Coast, We have a bunch of these gray squirrels running through our yard, and they all have white ears. They are not fox squirrels, they are grays with white ears.

posted on Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:58pm
His Esteemed Excellency Kody R Bear's picture
His Esteemed Excellency Kody R Bear says:

I have recently raised a baby Eastern Grey Squirrel and plan to release it soon. Does anyone know of a good method of tagging it? It's name is Hank and I do not want to shoot Hank next fall during Squirrel season.

Kody

posted on Thu, 02/12/2009 - 8:08am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I live in Baton Rouge, LA and have noticed the white ears on our squirrels for the first time this year. I do not believe so many are transplants. I think they live here. I see them barking, flirting, and running to nests.

posted on Thu, 03/26/2009 - 3:58pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Only white ears?!?!?!?!!?!?!? In our house in Prior Lake MN, we have a family of albino sqirrels (you know, all white and red eyes). They are actually pretty cute.

posted on Thu, 03/26/2009 - 6:30pm
SWM's picture
SWM says:

EARS!?!?!?

posted on Thu, 03/26/2009 - 6:32pm
Gerry's picture
Gerry says:

I saw a grey squirrel with white ears today for the first time in my yard. The ears were white, not yellow. Bright white. I never see grey squirrels at all around my home in Michigan, so this was unusual. We have red, fox squirrels by the barrel, however. Unlike the grey squirrels I've seen in PA and NJ, this one had a bushy tale, and physically resembled the fox squirrels.

posted on Sun, 03/29/2009 - 8:25pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have a host of squirrels that come to my feeders. There are the run-of-the-mill gray squirrels, the big red fox squirrels and gray squirrels with white ears. There is most definitely a noticeable difference between the 2 kinds of gray squirrels. The entire ear is white on the white eared squirrels. At times I can have 20-25 squirrels in the yard and about 1/2 of them are the white eared variety. Is this a subspecies in gray squirrels?

I thought I was the only one seeing them. There is really no size difference between the two.

posted on Thu, 04/30/2009 - 5:06am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have both white eared gray squirrels and non-white eared gray squirrels visiting my birdfeeders. I live in eastern Massachusetts. In the winter the white eared squirrels grow quite obvious white tufts at the base of their ears. The non white eared squirrels do not. In the summer, the white eared variety lose the tufts but the hair on the squirrels ears remains white. I first noticed the white eared squirrels 2 years ago.

posted on Sun, 06/21/2009 - 5:58am
SqurLuvr's picture
SqurLuvr says:

Last year I also saw a gray squirrel with large white ear tufts- even in summer. I did not see any like him this year and his progeny did not have white tufts. I'm thinking this is a homozygous negative trait??

posted on Sun, 09/27/2009 - 4:36pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

We have lots of grey and fox squirrels in our yard.This morning at our bird feeders we saw a squirrel which was grey with a white underneath. It was larger than a grey, had a big bushy tail, but had reddish-brown striped markings on its face and back. It had cream-colored ears. I've never seen a squirrel like this before and I've lived on this farm for 54 years. I'm in southeastern Missouri.

posted on Wed, 11/18/2009 - 9:13am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Battle Creek, Michigan

We have always had a large population of black squirrels here, and I believed until I was an adult the urban legend that C. W. Post brought them over from China; I now know them for what they are, a genetic slip in the gray squirrel family. I have black squirrels in my back yard, as well as other squirrels that I * believe* to be eastern gray squirrels. I'm not certain, as I can't convince them to lay on their backs so I can see the color of their belly, nor to stand next to a fox squirrel, if indeed that's what they are not. These are mostly gray, have a bushy tail of the same coloration as the body, with slight reddish highlights here and there. What I can see of the belly looks to be the same color as the body and the backs of the ears are startlingly white. I believe this whiteness has become much more pronounced since the weather has cooled. They seem to be a little larger than the black squirrels, but if so not by very much.

posted on Fri, 11/20/2009 - 3:49pm
Keith's picture
Keith says:

I have noticed a difference in size between grey squirrels I see in Central Florida vs. Grey squirrels I see in New Jersey. Why is that? Markings, coloring all the same, just really much bigger up here - is it a temperature thing, perhaps more predatory in Southeast they don't grow as large because they don't last as long? Just thinking out loud, any one else ever notice this?

posted on Fri, 11/27/2009 - 2:25pm
steven floyd's picture
steven floyd says:

I HAVE WHITE EARED GRAY SQUIRRELS HERE IN KNOB LICK MISSOURI WAS CHECKING THE NET FOR REASONS WHY THEY ARE HERE AND FOUND YOU HERE..........WHATS UP WITH THAT???????????

posted on Tue, 12/22/2009 - 7:37pm
Sandra's picture
Sandra says:

We noticed white earred squirrles for the first time this year and there seems to be a number of them comming to our feeder. We are in southeast Texas near Beaumont.

posted on Tue, 01/19/2010 - 9:13am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I see at least one 'light ear' gray quirrel around here in eastrern Massachusetts (01890). Some squirrels are busy adding fresh pine needless to existing nests.

posted on Wed, 02/10/2010 - 9:18am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I live in Maine and just saw my very first Grey squirrel with white ears! Thanks for this discussion - Spring fever is not to blame after all!

posted on Mon, 02/22/2010 - 7:56am
Jeanne's picture
Jeanne says:

I have had white eared grey squirrels for several years. They nest in my attic and I watch the young ones which all have white ears also. I have the regular grey squirrels also. They all have white bellys and grey bodies with red highlites on the tails. I live in NE Atlanta, Ga area. I feed the squirrels, birds, possums, and raccoons that come to my deck all day and night.

posted on Sun, 02/28/2010 - 10:50am
New York's picture
New York says:

White or yellow or grey ? I just love this creature.
New York

posted on Thu, 04/15/2010 - 8:42am
Jim Lad's picture
Jim Lad says:

I'm watching a grey squirrel today and it has white tufts behind the ears which prompted me to search you out.
I'm on Vancouver Island, Altitude 600' and we have snow right now.
I pay more attention to the birds than the squirrels and have never noticed this change in colour before.

posted on Wed, 12/01/2010 - 12:38pm
Wisconsin's picture
Wisconsin says:

We're seeing gray squirrels with white ears here in Wisconsin. I don't remember ever seeing the white ears before. My husband noted the same thing.

posted on Sun, 12/05/2010 - 8:06pm
MikeRogers's picture
MikeRogers says:

So I woke up to see two squirrels on the feeder and noticed they had big tuffs of white fur behind the ears...I've been looking at squirrels my whole life and never saw this before. Is it their winter coat? Are the ears just puffed up because they were chasing on another? Someone please fill me in on this mystery as I searched for "Squirrels with white ears" on google and found this page. Mike

posted on Sat, 01/01/2011 - 7:03am
Minnesota's picture
Minnesota says:

We just saw two light gray squirrels with stark white patches on the backside of their ears yesterday. We have never seen these markings before this year. Bemidji, MN

posted on Tue, 04/12/2011 - 9:25pm
Jeanne's picture
Jeanne says:

We still have both the grey-eared and white eared squirrels in our yard. They seem to be separate families. The white appears to breed true and produce white eared young. This has been a very interesting discussion. I look forward to reading the adventures of the White-eared squirrels all over the country.

posted on Tue, 04/26/2011 - 3:55pm
Janice's picture
Janice says:

We live in central Wisconsin, and for the first time in five years since we lived amongst squirrels, we are seeing a white-eared gray squirrel. It seems to have a slightly reddish tail, a lighter gray coat and a little bigger build than the pure gray ones. Also, for the first time, a black squirrel is on our yard. Where are the scientific comments about the posted findings?

posted on Sat, 04/30/2011 - 1:46pm
PLC's picture
PLC says:

I don't know if anyone is still paying attention three years on from the original question, but:

Gray squirrels in my PA back yard (just outside Philly) develop bright white fur behind (on the back sides) of their ears as cold weather approaches-- beginning late October or so.

These patches aren't tan or yellowish-gray as they seem to be in warmer weather. They are so distinctly white that they look like little dots of reflective tape (the stuff on fence posts and roads that shines in approaching headlights.).

posted on Wed, 11/16/2011 - 1:54pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

South Eastern Wisconsin

I have the gray squirrels with the white tufts at the base of their ears in my yard. This is the first year I have seen them. They are slightly bigger then the regular gray squirrels. A couple years ago I saw a black squirrel in my yard. He was jet black and beautiful. I only saw him twice and I haven't seen him since.
Thanks for your posts. I enjoyed them.

posted on Mon, 12/12/2011 - 11:15am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have a puzzling situation with a squirrel here in NC. He started out with a small white spot at the base of his tail. He stayed that way all last winter. We didn't see him again until early summer which at that time his tail had started to turn white. As the months have gone by he his body has started turning white. When I last saw him last week he was almost totally white! I know that it is the same squirrel because his left ear is missing. It looks like he was born without an ear. Perhaps he has some genetic defect. Anyone of heard of such a thing? I'm trying to get a photo.

posted on Thu, 12/29/2011 - 10:00pm
RedSC's picture
RedSC says:

I have always had white earred gray squirrels in the winter and I live in Oconee County SC.

posted on Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:21am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Live in Ontario Canada and we have had the grey squirrels with yellowish white ears for several years now. I think they are really cute.

posted on Mon, 01/30/2012 - 1:57pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have a gray squirrel which likes to be in my yard a lot, and he definitely has white ears. :) And he is not a fox squirrel; there is no red fur on him.
I live in south Mississippi (Picayune).

posted on Thu, 03/08/2012 - 9:22am
Brande's picture
Brande says:

I asked Google about the white ears on one of the grey squirrels in my back yard because it's the first time I have seen one. I live in north Florida.

posted on Tue, 04/10/2012 - 9:22pm
Tal Leverett's picture
Tal Leverett says:

I have a population of grey squirrels living in the old growth oaks in my yard. About one third of them have white ears. (Not yellow) Snowy white. I live in Palm Bay FL. The tmeperatures when I first noticed them are high 80s during the day and low 70s at night.

posted on Thu, 10/24/2013 - 8:30am
gabriella's picture
gabriella says:

i just had a question on squirrels. why do white squirrles have red eyes?

posted on Fri, 10/25/2013 - 5:37pm
Lakjo2's picture
Lakjo2 says:

I live in Minnesota and today shot a squirrel that was almost all white but the head and part of the belly looked exactly like that of a grey squirrel

posted on Sun, 01/12/2014 - 11:30pm
gabig 's picture
gabig says:

are there squirrels in africa

posted on Sun, 01/19/2014 - 3:29pm
mallory gould 's picture
mallory gould says:

no becuase theres noo acorns there

posted on Sat, 01/25/2014 - 11:52am
Verron Federation's picture

It should not be difficult to identify a grey squirrel from a fox squirrel. We have pictures on our website of the greys and flying squirrels that we remove from homes.

posted on Tue, 04/22/2014 - 9:43am

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