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Are Black Squirrels Common in the Bay Area?

by on February 20, 2014

A black squirrel at Ardenwood Historic Farm, Fremont, CA.
Photo: Lee Greengrass
A black squirrel at Ardenwood Historic Farm, Fremont, CA. Photo: Lee Greengrass

Black squirrels, such as the one above, are a color morph of the eastern gray squirrel — an introduced species.

Color morphs are a common form of polymorphism, which is the presence of two or more distinct characteristics within a single interbreeding population. Seasonal changes in coloration such as that of the short-tailed weasel, which possesses a white coat in the winter, or genetic conditions such as albinism are not considered color polymorphism.

Juan-Carlos Solis, director of education at Wildcare, said that black squirrels are not common in California but when they are seen it’s more likely in urban areas and parks.

“Eastern grays (regardless of coat color) are prevalent only in urban areas and parks in California, and not in more rural areas away from human habitation,” he said. “Their association with humans appears to be the key to their survival and not any variation in color and/or other traits.”

Three color morphs in one litter of the Eastern Gray Squirrel; black (melanistic), gray and blonde. Photo: Melanie Piazza

Three color morphs in one litter of the Eastern Gray Squirrel; black (melanistic), gray and blonde. Photo: Melanie Piazza

Wildcare’s wildlife rehabilitation hospital has seen a few dark brown or black squirrels, around four blondes and recently, several mottled gray, white and red squirrels most of which have come from San Anselmo. They have also encountered blonde and silver-coated racoons.

Unlike eastern grays, it is unusual for western gray squirrels — native to California — to display color polymorphism.

Read more about color polymorphism here.

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Amy on April 30th, 2014 at 4:40 pm

On April 26, 2014, my sons and I saw a jet black squirrel scamper up a pine
at the entrance to Meyer’s Garden, a southern area of Garin Ridge Eastbay Regional Park in Hayward, CA. An hour later we saw 5 black squirrels in an open lot on the corner of Mission Blvd. & Industrial Blvd. This was startling
because I haven’t seen a black squirrel in this area in my lifetime

Megan on July 12th, 2014 at 4:38 pm

There is a black squirrel that lives in my neighbors tree in Pacific Grove, CA. It is definitely a magical experience every time I see it.

Liz McHenry on July 28th, 2014 at 2:21 pm

I live in San Lorenzo, Ca. and this morning I saw a jet black squirrel. His coat was silky black looking and he had longer hair than a regular squirrel. He climbed a tree and just watched me. Wish I had my camera.

Maria on August 14th, 2014 at 9:54 am

We live in Pacifica, CA. A black squirrel visits our back deck on a daily basis to eat the birdseed that falls from our bird feeders. I had never heard of black squirrels before I saw our daily guest. He sure is a cutie!

Carolynn on September 3rd, 2014 at 9:55 pm

I was doing a little research on line because we have a mated pair of Black Squirrels in our back yard. They are currently busy building and lining a huge nest in our giant Cypress tree. They systematically stripped the young
Red Wood tree we have of it’s bark for the building project. I would dearly love to see the construction up close. But it’s too high and I wouldn’t want them to feel threatened.

I had never seen the Black Squirrel before marrying my husband and moving here to his home here in San Bruno, CA.

Louise on September 28th, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Startled to see a black squirrel in Scotts Valley [about 5 mi north of Santa Cruz] this morning, and even more startled maybe 50 yards later when a blond one fell from a tree, nearly hitting my car. I’ve never seen squirrels in either color in this area before.

keith on October 9th, 2014 at 9:50 am

A black squirrel has taken up residence in our backyard in Aptos, CA. He eats acorns from our Oak, and unfortunately, some of our avocados. Nice to have a new visitor.

Keith on October 10th, 2014 at 10:13 am

Seen several black squirrels (jet black over 100% of their bodies) in the Stockton, CA area.

Vita on October 29th, 2014 at 8:15 am

Driving my daughter to school this morning (on Butterfield Rd. In San anselmo) and we saw a jet black squirrel run across the street. I didn’t even know they existed! It was gorgeous and sleek.

Erik on November 9th, 2014 at 10:38 am

I just witnessed a black (maybe brown-black) squirrel in Pacific Grove, CA as well. He finished his acorn, gave me the stink eye, then climbed up a tree like he didn’t have a care in the world.

Eric on November 20th, 2014 at 9:15 am

Saw a jet black squirrel on drive to work in Palo Alto near Hwy 101 and University. Did a double take to make sure it was a squirrel. Yep.

Beth Miller on December 29th, 2014 at 8:18 am

I was surprised to see a jet black squirrel in my yard in Fremont. He or she acts like it owns the yard even chasing the bushy tails who have lived in my yard for many years. Have never seen them in The area. Looks like a skunk without white, shiny coat. Fun to watch!

vin on January 8th, 2015 at 8:02 am

I just saw a jet black squirrel in Hayward in the hills on Garin

Christal Olbrich on January 30th, 2015 at 11:15 am

I have a black squirrel that lives in our Morgan Hill yard. love it! but only one….

Darrin B. on February 23rd, 2015 at 8:49 am

I live in Citrus Heights (Sacramento,Ca).
I was able to take some good quality video of the Black Squirrel that frequents my Redwood tree. It is the first Black Squirrel I have been able to witness. Jet black, beautiful. It was mingling with a Gray.

Peter Barto on April 22nd, 2015 at 10:19 am

In case anyone is keeping track, I spotted a black squirrel this morning near my home in San Anselmo. We have a very healthy population of gray and eastern fox squirrels, but this is the first black I’ve seen in 20+ years.

Jen C on May 27th, 2015 at 7:02 pm

There is a black squirrel that lives in the tree outside my apartment complex. Have been feeding it peanuts in a shell for several months.

Jen C on May 27th, 2015 at 7:03 pm

I forgot to mention that I live in Sunnyvale CA

LC on May 31st, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Saw my first ever Black Squirrel in my backyard today in Fairfax, CA. I see gray and brown squirrels daily.

Shelli on June 10th, 2015 at 10:17 am

I have a black squirrel that stays around our apartments and always is hanging around, his name is “Blackie Squirrel” ( I know creative huh?!) He is a Q T PIE and always makes my day to see him around!
Oh yeah, I live, and he lives here in Fair Oaks California, (Sacramento Area) :)

J.T. on July 15th, 2015 at 12:11 am

I was born at Stanford grew up in East Palo Alto where I have seen (eastern) black squirrels forever. Many have come from scientists doing studies and cross breeding at Universities (like Stanford) and have escaped. Nothing new to the world, just new to your “world”.

J.T. on July 15th, 2015 at 12:13 am

….I’m 38 yrs old for the record

Margo on September 13th, 2015 at 2:25 pm

I have 3 black squirrels in my back yard. It backs up to a large natural park. 1 looks like the mother. The little black squirrels chase each other around. So cute. Stockton, CA I have also seen an older black squirrel at my house in Santa Cruz.

Connie Fazzi on September 17th, 2015 at 2:46 pm

On a few occasions I have seen a black squirrel or different black squirrels in Lakewood Park-Sunnyvale, CA. I have lived all over the U.S. and never seen one. I hear they are rare in CA so I feel privileged to have seen one (them).

Carlos on December 24th, 2015 at 6:50 am

I live in Tampa Florida. And i seen two jet black squirres, they look like little cats… 12/20/2015

Robert Johnson on January 29th, 2016 at 10:02 am

I live in Fairfax, CA, which is on the border of San Anselmo, mentioned in the above article (we are about 50 minutes north of San Francisco). Just put up a squirrel feeder about a week ago, and this morning I saw a jet black squirrel on the tree opposite my feeder – didn’t know He made them in that color! If I spot him in the feeder, which is about 6 feet from my computer screen, I hope to get a picture.

Robert Johnson

Laurie Cole on April 7th, 2016 at 7:51 pm

A few Black squirrels can be seen at Hayes Mansion and Edenvale Garden in South East San Jose…curious,ncute, appropriately fearful.

Lorna Tinus on May 19th, 2016 at 4:35 pm

I have a black squirrel in my yard of late and this is the first time I have seen one in the Brookside Drive area of San Anselmo. He likes my raw peanuts.

Janet on May 28th, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Saw a black squirrel near Placerville in El Dorado Co. Thought I was seeing thing then 5 seconds later saw a second one. Did not know we had them in this area

Deanna on June 25th, 2016 at 10:06 pm

I was out on a walk this morning and saw a black squirrel in the middle of the street. At first I thought it was just the early morning light and then I saw him turn and run up a tree then stop and stare at me. He was jet black and beautiful. Never saw a black squirrel before. Saw him in Fair Oaks.

Jim on July 13th, 2016 at 8:50 pm

I lived in Mountain View California for ten years. I worked as a carpenter for a company that repaired and added on to houses. Everyday I’d see black squirrels in any of the cities in the Bay Area. I would see them chasing each other up and down in a circulir motion in red wood trees.

Marian on September 25th, 2016 at 9:01 am

I live in Santa Clara Ca. One day My husband and I were watching tv, we have a large sliding glass door into our yard. We heard a scratching noise and on the step,was a little black squirrel her paws pressed against the glass looking at us. She is so cute, we have fed her all summer. Every morning and evening like clockwork, she is at our door, as if to say it’s time… lol

Carol Vesecky on December 7th, 2016 at 3:09 pm

Black squirrels were all over the neighborhood in midtown Palo Alto where I lived for 30 years. A friend told me that the Russian czar presented a pair from South Africato the president of Stanford in its early years and ours were descended from them. The czar did not visit the university; he sent them with an emissary. Haven’t tried to confirm this, but it’s a good story, right?

julia bolton on December 12th, 2016 at 6:28 pm

we saw a black squirrel several weeks ago in citrus heights ca. jet black, thick,shiny beautiful,long fur. so cool. The first and only one we’ve seen

Dave on June 12th, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Have probably 6-10 “black” eastern gray squirrels living in my neighborhood in Ohio. One, Inky, is very tame. She comes when called and will even sit on my lap and eat. Inky takes food directly from me. The others are coming around as I earn their trust. BTW, we’ve given them all names.

Marti on August 16th, 2017 at 12:36 pm

My daughter has Redwood City home. I have seen one black squirrel every year for ten years when I visit. Some gene is definitely being passed on as I am sure it must be new generation occasionally.

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