The Black Squirrels of New York

The weather was very mild today, and I decided to take advantage of it to go out and photograph some of the city’s famous black squirrels. I first saw them in Union Square Park when I was a teenager.

If you don’t know about them, they are just normal Gray Squirrels that happen to be a darker color than is typical. It’s an example of melanism. It’s inherited and, since many parks in New York are comparatively isolated by block of concrete, populations of black squirrels will tend to be more common in certain parks than others. A year or two ago, I was walking with my mother near Tompkins Square Park when we saw a black squirrel. I was originally going to head there, but the L train stop on First Avenue is right next to Stuyvesant Town, adjacent to a related development called Peter Cooper Village where black squirrels have been seen. So, I decided to take a detour through Stuyvesant Town first.


I didn’t get far into the development before I saw a black squirrel rummaging through some leaves. I approached quietly and cautiously. It wasn’t necessary. As soon as the squirrel saw me, he came bounding up to me. I should have figured. It’s New York City and the squirrels are little hustlers. Fortunately, I had come provisioned with some hazelnuts in the shell. I’ve always found these to be a favorite of squirrels.


A gray squirrel nearby saw our exchange and came running over. He got a nut, too. It didn’t feel right to only give nuts to the black squirrels.


I walked around the building to an open space near the center of the development. It seems that a good third of the squirrels are black. It was no problem finding them.

This peanut must have come from someone else.

This peanut must have come from someone else.

Some of the black squirrels are darker than others. I noticed that quite a few of them had lighter, brown bellies.



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