Thursday, June 22, 2017

Moulting Squirrel

In recent weeks I've taken a few photographs of a squirrel who lives in my yard.  I never really thought about squirrels moulting (or molting, if you live in the US!) before, but after looking closely at the photographs I took, I realized that the moulting process is quite distinct, and also takes quite a long time to progress.

Here was my squirrel friend on March 18 after getting a peanut treat.  At this point, her coat is still quite normal for winter.  You can see the reddish tone along the top line of her back.

I first noticed that the squirrel was looking a bit "ragged" in mid April.  Here you can see there is a faint line on the foreleg where the fur has begun to moult - the line is caused by the longer "winter coat" hairs.  The shorter summer fur is on the lower leg and paw.  This was on April 15.

I didn't get a lot of great pictures of her in May, but here you can see the line of moulting fur is progressing down her shoulder somewhat, and on her rear leg.  This is on May 5.

I'm calling this squirrel "she" because when I was taking pictures in May, I noticed that she was most probably nursing babies, based on her appearance here.

Here she is on May 29 - now you can really see that the moult has progressed over much of her body and the winter coat is still stubbornly holding on at her shoulders and rear haunches.

This shot shows how the winter coat has a much brighter red tone in a stripe that was down her back from shoulders to tail.  You can see the remnants of the red on her shoulders and also still at the tail, but the summer coat in between the two areas is just a regular brown colour, without the rusty red tones.

It was most obliging of her to show me her back!

Look at that red stripe!

So here she is on June 7.  You can see she still isn't quite finished the moult, so it's been about 6 weeks since it started.  Another thing I notice is that she now has a dark stripe along the side of her body where her brown fur meets the white belly fur.  That wasn't so distinct in winter, if you go back and look at that first photograph.

You can also see the dark stripe on her side in this shot.

I'll be watching her tail over the next few weeks to see if those vivid red hairs come out and are replaced by less vibrant tones for summer.  It has been interesting to watch the changes in her and to document them in a series of photographs.  I'm hoping that one day she'll learn to take a peanut from my hand!


Michelle said...

Very cool to see the changes! I don't think our Western Gray squirrels molt, or at least their appearance doesn't change dramatically like your wee resident.

thecrazysheeplady said...


porkpal said...

Great photos. Very informative. I wonder what survival or other value there can be to being more colorful in the drab winter?