These incredible pictures show for the first time how mutant black ‘super squirrels’ are dominating their grey cousins by beating them to food – and mates.
It is the first time a black and grey squirrel have been photographed ‘nose to nose’ since the fitter mutation began to get the upper hand.
The American greys now have serious competition for the first time since they invaded our shores in the 1800s and virtually dominated the native red squirrel.
The black squirrel – genetic mutations of greys missing a part of the usual DNA sequence – is fiercely territorial, more aggressive and now make up half of the total population in some areas of the UK.
But this pair spotted nuzzling on a fence at a farm in Great Eversden, Cambridge, are not yet rivals – as they are a sibling pair.
It is possible for two grey squirrels which both carry the recessive black gene to produce a black baby as part of their grey litter.
This family of squirrels – a grey mother and father, a grey baby and black baby – were pictured on a farm owned by Althea Cubitt, 63, and her husband Campbell, 67.
Althea said: ”The mother and father have been visiting us for a year now but we were very surprised when we saw the black baby.
”I had never heard of black squirrels before I saw this one but I have read since that they are supposed to be at war with the red and grey squirrels.
”But this pair are definitely siblings as I saw them both feeding from the mother when they were young and they are always playing together.
”They are here every morning at around 5am. I have told my grandchildren about the black squirrel and they can’t wait to see it.”
The retired game farmers moved from South Africa two years ago to be closer to their three children and six grandchildren.
The black squirrel is indigenous to America, but it has beaten its grey cousins to food and mates to become the predominant species in some areas including East Anglia.
Dr Craig Shuttleworth, national operations director for the Squirrel Survival Trust, said such a striking difference in colour is possible between siblings.
He said: ”Squirrels come in a variety of different colours and its rare but not impossible for these two to come from the same litter.
”You can get albino greys, grey greys and black greys. It just depends on the mixture of the two sorts of colour of the parents.
”I would guess that the black squirrel comes from grey parents that both have the recessive black gene.”
Squirrel kittens are typically born in litters of one to six and the females breed twice a year.
The first black squirrel was sighted on the outskirts of Letchworth, Herts., in 1912 after it is believed to have escaped from the menagerie of a wealthy landowner.
Estimates show there could already be as many as 25,000 black squirrels in the East of England.
This is the biggest change in squirrel demographics in the region since the last indigenous red squirrel disappeared almost 50 years ago as a result of the grey population explosion.
Grey squirrels were native to the United States and Canada but were first recorded in Britain in the 1820s.
Rich landowners liberated a pair in Cheshire in 1876 and the prolific grey squirrel has gradually displaced the native red squirrel.
By 1958 all red squirrels had vanished from Cambridgeshire – a county now overrun with black squirrels.
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