Toronto is a squirrelly place. Even the mascot for our 150th anniversary was Seskwee the Sesquicentennial Squirrel. The frolicsome animal is a rodent of the family Sciuridae. There are more than 250 types of squirrel, but in Toronto two kinds dominate: the American Red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), and the Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). But what about our famous Black and White Squirrels, you ask?
Several species of squirrels, including the Eastern Grey, have melanistic phases, which means that they can appear either black or brownish grey in colour. Eastern Greys are the most common type found in Toronto. The famous white squirrels of Trinity Bellwoods Park are merely albinos.
Other than their cuteness, what’s good about these critters? Squirrels play a big role in tree propagation. When they bury their nuts under the ground, about 10 to 20 percent of said seeds are lost, allowing trees to take root. Still, many consider them pests because they eat bulbs out of our gardens and take up residence in our walls. Squirrels also cause electricity outages as they often end up in transformers searching for food. When Seskwee ends up electrocuted, it causes a power surge that shorts equipment. And, because they often chew on tree branches to sharpen their teeth, they sometimes end up chomping on live power lines instead.
Still the squirrel, in its ubiquity, has become a symbol of our city. On any given day, you can find tourists snapping shots of the black ones because they are unknown overseas. Squirrels are so cool that Brampton has replaced its former mascot, “Millie the Millennium Techno Bug,” with Sassy the Sesqui Squirrel. When Brampton is biting you, you know you’re onto something good.
Photo by littlemykie from the Torontoist Photo Pool.