When a west-side resident asked why he was seeing new varieties of squirrels in his backyard, U-M zoologist Philip Myers decided to check it out for himself.

What he found was “squirrel heaven” in Eberwhite Woods. “Every species of squirrel found in southern Michigan is probably present in the woods or nearby,” he emails. “The huge oaks and hickories provide abundant food and shelter, and are especially favorable for the gray and fox squirrels. Females of both species undoubtedly crank out litter after litter. When those babies reach adult size and disperse, they are unable to compete with established adults for territories and spill out into [the Eberwhite] neighborhood.”

Myers says several factors can affect the number and variety of squirrels seen in a given area: a hawk nesting in the neighborhood can reduce it, coyotes “may be picking off the fox squirrels, which are easier to catch because they tend to be on the ground more,” and the new fur that grows on squirrels who have survived mange often looks different from the rest of their coat.

“All these things happen,” notes Myers. “You just don’t usually see them happen in your backyard.”