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Squirrels and Their Surroundings: The Relationship Between Camouflage and Habitat

based on 8 ratings
Author: Cy Ashley Webb
Type

Biology, Ecology

Grade Level

1st - 6th

Difficulty of Project

Easy

Cost

$5.00 for poster board

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project

2 weeks

Objective

This project is about determining whether the darkness of a particular habitat is related to the color of the animals that live there.  The student will make a tally of grey and black squirrels found in (1) darker environments such as forests, and (2) lighter areas such as fields. After making a tally, the student will analyze the data to determine if a particular type of squirrel is more predominant in a particular environment.

Project Goal

The goal is to determine if the coloration of an animal is related to its customary habitat.

Materials and Equipment

  • Note book
  • Pen or pencil
  • Camera (optional)

Introduction

Background information

Grey squirrels and black squirrels are common in many urban environments. Grey squirrels can be found in wooded areas as well as estuaries, city streets, and wherever food can be found.  Unlike other varieties of squirrels, grey squirrels are not strict vegetarians and will be bird eggs, insects, and birds and well as plants and nuts.

Although less common, populations of black squirrel have been slowly increasing.  In some parts of California and Ohio, the black squirrel has begun to edge out the grey variant.  Some scientists believe that the black squirrel may be better suited to colder environments.

Research Questions
  • Does the color of a squirrel correlate with the environment in which it lives?
  • Does the color of a squirrel provide camouflage against predators?
  • Squirrels spent much of their time seeking food.  Are squirrels more likely to seek food in areas where they have been camouflage?
Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research
  • Habitat
  • Camouflage
  • Range

Experimental Procedure

  1. Prepare your materials:  you will need a notebook and a pencil.  You might also like to bring a pair of binoculars, but these are not necessary.
  2. Make a list of habitats where you might find squirrels.  Try to find a variety of habitats.  For example, you might try fields, forests, urban settings, shady areas and sunny areas.
  3. Visit your habitats and count squirrels.  Make a note whether each squirrel is in a shady or sunny area and whether the squirrel is a grey squirrel or a black squirrel.
  4. After several weeks of observation, analyze your data.  Is there a pattern?  Are the majority of the black squirrels in sunny or shady areas?  What about the gray squirrels?
Required Pictures

Take pictures of your squirrels!  Try to get a mixture of gray squirrels and black squirrels.

Bibliography

References to Related Books
  • Squirrels: The Animal Answer Guide by Richard W. Thorington Jr. and Katie E. Ferrell
  • Squirrels at My Window: Life With a Remarkable Gang of Urban Squirrels by Grace Marmor Spruch and Nurit Karlin
  • Welcome to the World of Squirrels (Welcome to the World Series) by Diane Swanson
References to Related Web Sites
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