Black squirrels in Iowa

Clubs, businesses, special events — many things in Iowa have been named after the mythic black squirrel.

I grew up in eastern Iowa where black squirrels were a common sight and didn’t really think anything about it until moving to northwest Iowa where black squirrels are much less common.

Then, my sister-in-law texted me a photo of a squirrel that is both brown and black, with a line right down its belly that separates the two colors.

half black/half brown squirrel

Black squirrels are actually fox squirrels, the same type of squirrel that is common throughout Iowa. Fox squirrels are typically a rust-brown color with some yellow mixed in and a white or gray belly. They can also have black or silver hairs mixed throughout as well.

fox squirrel

Typical fox squirrel

However, fox squirrels can also have color variations that stem from genetics. Many animals, including fox squirrels, can be albino, which means they lack any color pigments and appear all white. Fox squirrels can also appear black, which is another color variation, and there have also been sightings of squirrels throughout Iowa that are a typical rust color with a white tail. Someone also posted a photo of an Iowa squirrel that looked normal except it had a vibrant red tail.

The crazy squirrel pictured has yet another color mutation.

The same animal, but different colors. It all goes back to genetics and what was passed on by the parents. It’s an interesting study in many color mutations that can be seen in species around the world.

(Read 5 ways to tell apart a chipmunk and a ground squirrel)




  1. Ryan Anthony on January 19, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    Why are the black squirrels smaller?

    • kiley on January 20, 2020 at 8:34 am

      I’m not sure that they consistently are. They are still an eastern fox squirrel, just a color morph.

  2. Jan Swale on December 15, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Does that half and half squirrel live in Iowa? Most of my life was spent in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area and south of there near Traer, and I never saw a single black squirrel there. However, I’ve visited the Quad Cities for many years and now live in Bettendorf and they’re common here. Several black squirrels live in my back yard and one has a rusty-red tail. They seem slightly smaller than the fox and gray squirrels.

    • kiley on December 16, 2019 at 11:01 am

      Black squirrels are a fox squirrel, just a color morph. The half-and-half squirrel was spotted near Solon, IA.

  3. Kathy Angileri on November 15, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    I had a black squirrel in my back yard…St. Cloud Florida the other day…They are So Cool!❤⭐