Reader question: what's up with this squirrel's raggedy fur?

squirrel with white patchy fur

Know what’s wrong with this squirrel?

From time to time we get random animal questions from readers. I figured I’d answer some of the fun ones here.  Got an intriguing animal query? Send it to

Can you figure out what kind of squirrel this is or what is going on with his coat?

Kimberley Ashwell
Warrenton, VA

A. This is probably a grey squirrel, but maybe a fox squirrel. “Foxers” can be bigger and have a more orange coat. People  who have never seen a real red squirrel (which are tiny and extremely chatty) often call them red squirrels. You can tell the difference by looking at their bellies: gray squirrels have white or grey bellies. Fox squirrels have a nice light orange tummy.

As for what’s going on with that awful coat, it could be more than one thing. The white fur looks like this could be a partially leucistic squirrel, that is, one that lacks pigment in some of its fur, but has regularly colored eyes (as opposed to albino red eyes).

When squirrels are having a bad hair day, people assume it’s mange, but it’s  probably not. Most likely it’s a normal molting process. Squirrels shed their summer coat for a warmer winter one and vice versa. It could also be bad nutrition or injury–though it’s hard to imagine a squirrel getting injured over this much of his body and surviving.

Do you have any insight into this squirrel’s odd appearance? Leave it in the comments below.

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2 comments to Reader question: what’s up with this squirrel’s raggedy fur?

  • When I grew up in England we had plenty of Irish Reds. You would see them fairly often, especially around my area. Over time they were bred out by the more dominant grey, so you never see them any more. We also had “Bedford Black” squirrels, black as coal, with a family living in the tree at the end of our garden for many years. For a while you’d see combinations of red and grey.

  • Hi there. I am not sure if that’s a Grey squirrel? We have tons of them here in our backyard, never seen one that looks like your picture. I live in Toronto, Canada, and earlier this year, my wife, Jean, and I were in Ireland where we came upon the rarely seen Red Squirrel. To us, they actually look somewhat like our American Red squirrels, but boy, do they have long ears! We were shocked to learn that U.K. and Irish Red squirrels are contracting the pox virus from Grey squirrels, and dying. We feel very lucky to have seen two Red squirrels in Ireland, and have posted some of our pictures and videos for anyone interested at: