If you’ve recently run into a rare black squirrel shining its beady black eyes at you, it’s normal for you to be scared.
Many of us are familiar with gray and red squirrels; however, since we know very little about these black furry squirrels, we must answer the question; are black squirrels dangerous?
The black squirrel, a variation of the gray species, is known to be more aggressive than its gray counterparts due to a slight difference in temperament. It is, however, vital that you know that they only become aggressive when directly attacked
Here, we’ll unravel the mystery behind black squirrels by tracing their origin and answering common questions regarding how dangerous they are.
What Are Black Squirrels?
Black squirrels aren’t a peculiar squirrel species but result from genetic mutation occurring in gray and fox squirrels commonly found in North America.
This mutation causes melanism, an increase in black pigmentation in an animal’s fur, feathers, or skin. In the case of the black squirrel, the fur becomes highly pigmented, giving it its unique black appearance.
Many scientists believe this mutation’s origin can be traced to the fox squirrel, and eastern gray squirrels later inherited this during an attempt at interspecies breeding.
To better understand this claim, further studies reveal that some squirrels are born with this unusual black fur because the part of their DNA that makes their fur brown or gray is missing.
Also, when it comes to mating, female black squirrels will naturally only mate with black or gray male squirrels. However, because Black squirrels are a mutated variation, even if black squirrels are crossed with the gray ones, there is a high chance they will give birth to gray offspring. These squirrels only produce black squirrel babies if they can pass on the mutated pigment gene to their offspring.
Are Black Squirrels Aggressive?
Although black squirrels aren’t aggressive by nature, they are known to often exhibit alarming traits of aggression, fiercer than an average gray squirrel would display. Specific instances often trigger their aggressiveness.
Here’s a compilation of some reasons a black squirrel can become aggressive.
1. Black Squirrels Are Aggressive When They Feel Threatened
One thing that might trigger this aggressive behavior exhibited by black squirrels is the sense that a threat is nearby.
Many believe that their aggressive behavior is mainly because of the testosterone levels they possess, which in comparison to other squirrels, is higher. This higher testosterone level is due to their high amount of black pigmentation.
Testosterone, the male sex hormone that acts like an anabolic steroid in both male and female animals, results in more strength and agility, making black squirrels physically stronger.
The high testosterone level also makes them comparatively larger, faster, and fiercer than other squirrels.
2. Black Squirrels Are More Aggressive During Winter
Harsh weather conditions could also act as a trigger for these aggressive behaviors noticed in black squirrels.
During winter, when trees are bare and food like nuts, leaves, berries, and insects becomes scarce, black squirrels will often aggressively seek convenient shelter and food, mostly fighting off other species or animals to get them.
Other instances black squirrels will show aggression include:
- When marking their territory
- When protecting their young
- When competing for food
Do Black Squirrels Attack Humans?
Under normal circumstances, a Black squirrel will only approach a human if offered food. More often than not, they’ll scurry off if you attempt to drive them away. This is because the sheer size of a human is usually enough to scare or deter them from attacking.
However, that doesn’t mean you should look for their trouble, as they belong in the wild and can sometimes be dangerous if provoked.
There are certain instances where a black squirrel will surely attack. Here are a few.
1. Black Squirrels Will Attack if You Try Catching Them
Black squirrels hate being caught and will resort to violence if there’s a chance they might escape your grip. If they are stuck in a ditch or between fences on your property, take extra care when attempting to pull them out with your hands.
2. Black Squirrels Will Attack if You Try to Hurt Them
These rodents will waste no time inflicting physical harm by biting and scratching if they sense you are trying to hurt them or their young. This is because their aggression is a natural defense mechanism against predators. It’s best to leave these rodents alone, especially if they aren’t causing any disturbance.
3. Black Squirrels Are More Likely to Attack Children and Pets
If you have children or small pets, keeping them away from black squirrels is advisable.
We advise this because black squirrels are intelligent creatures and can tell your children and pets, like puppies, aren’t strong enough to defend themselves from their attacks. If provoked by them, these squirrels will launch an attack without warning.
Do Black Squirrels Attack Other Animals?
Aside from attacking small pets when provoked, squirrels behave aggressively towards other rodents like mice and rats. They’ll also attack small birds, target their nests, and even prey on their eggs.
There are a couple of reasons for their aggression toward these specific animals ranging from food to sport.
1. Black Squirrels Attack Other Animals When Competing for Food
These creatures constantly battle other rodents like mice and rats for dominance and survival because they share similar food sources. Thankfully, mice and rats are fast on their feet and would rather leave their food for black squirrels than risk being mauled.
2. Black Squirrels Attack Other Animals for Sport
Black squirrels will attack other rodents and birds for sport when they aren’t fighting for food. They mostly attack rats and mice at night, pouncing on them and sometimes killing them for sheer fun.
3. Black Squirrels Will Attack Other Animals to Feed On Them
As tree squirrels, they’re more likely to attack bird nests on oak trees common around the United States and Canada. This is because oak trees produce acorn nuts, which squirrels love.
However, when they are hungry and don’t find acorns but spot a nest housing bird eggs or a few days old baby birds, they go for it, eating the eggs or killing the chicks and feeding on them.
Help! Why is there a Black Squirrel in my Garden?
If you have a garden in your backyard, you’ll most likely catch sight of black squirrels there. These rodents are generally drawn to gardens for several reasons. We’ll look at a few here.
1. Black Squirrels Will Attack Your Garden if You Plant Desirable Crops
Black squirrels love gardens because they are presented with various food options. Once they find their way into your garden, it’s nothing short of a nightmare, as they’ll display their wild, destructive nature.
They’ll rummage through crops and potted plants, steal seeds and vegetables, and cause all kinds of damage to what you’ve worked hard to cultivate.
2. Black Squirrels Will Attack Your Garden if It Has Bird Feeders
Black squirrels will do anything possible to get into your garden if they notice you have bird feeders.
This is because they enjoy the same seeds and nuts birds feed on. They’ll leave burrows on tree trunks, stripping bark off and destroying anything on the way just to get to the bird feeders.
3. Black Squirrels Will Attack Your Garden to Gather Food for the Winter Months
Black squirrels and almost every other squirrel type except flying squirrels will rummage through your garden when preparing for the winter months and return in the spring, just in time to feed on your freshly produced fruits and vegetables.
Do Black Squirrels Transmit Diseases?
Although squirrels are rarely infected with rabies, there is still a chance of being attacked by one with the disease. Aside from rabies, they’re carriers of various other diseases, a few of which can be transmitted to humans through bites and scratches.
Some of these diseases include:
Black squirrels also carry some pests and parasites like mites, fleas, and ticks and can spread them around your property and even on your pet. This can result in an unpleasant case of infestation in your home, skin irritation, and other pest-related complications for your pet.
Black squirrels are a rare sight and fun to watch. If you find one roaming about in your backyard, it’s normal to be curious and attempt to get a closer look. However, remember that they may attack when they feel threatened by your presence.
Finally, if you, your pet, or your kid is attacked by a black squirrel, ensure you do the following immediately;
- Seek immediate medical attention if bitten by a black squirrel
- Get an anti-rabies vaccine if bitten by a rabid black squirrel
- If a black squirrel attacks your pet, inspect them for harmful bugs
- Properly clean your pet’s wounds inflicted by black squirrels