Grey squirrel

Grey squirrel

Sciurus carolinensis

Common name:

Grey squirrel

Scientific name:

Sciurus carolinensis

Alternative common names:


Grey squirrels are medium-sizedtree squirrels. Males and females are similar in size and colour. They feed mostly on nuts, flowers and buds of more than 24 species of oak, 10 species of hickory, as well as pecan, walnut and beech species. They may build nests in buildings, destroying electrical wiring and woodwork.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

North America.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 1a in KwaZulu-Natal. Category 3 elsewhere.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal.

How does it spread?


Why is it a problem?

It is a serious pest and its habit of removing tree bark is extremely damaging. In addition to outcompeting red squirrels, it also carries a disease called paradox virus, which affects indigenous species. It may build nests in buildings, destroying electrical wiring and woodwork.

What does it look like?

Description: The grey squirrel is a medium-sized tree squirrel. Males and females are similar in size and colour. The fur on its back ranges from grizzled dark grey to pale grey and may have red tones. The ears are pale grey to white and the tail is white to pale grey. The underparts are grey to white. Its total length ranges from 380-525mm and the tail length ranges from 150-250mm.

Habitat: A very adaptable species, the grey squirrel prefers mature, broad-leaved woodlands with a rich understorey layer. It also occurs in conifer woodlands, urban areas where there are mature trees, as well as gardens and parks.

Breeding: The gestation period is about 45 days. In the Western Cape, the young are born during two main periods: spring (August/November) and summer (December/February). The average litter size is three and females may have two litters annually. The young are born blind and without fur. They only open their eyes at about four weeks old and fur begins to appear after about two weeks. The young remain in the nest until they are 5–6 weeks old. Weaning starts at about seven weeks and is completed by the time they are 10 weeks old. Adult size is reached at about nine months.

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