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Posted on February 6th, 2017 in Got Nature for Kids, Wildlife | 9 Comments »

SquirrelPeople can be taken aback by the sight of squirrels missing hair. Sightings of partially furred squirrels is not unusual with warmer temperatures experienced through the winter. Like many wildlife issues, the cause of hair loss in squirrels is not easy to answer and often results in more questions than answers. In most situations, hair loss does not impact populations of squirrels. However, individuals may be impacted during winter.

Most people assume, often incorrectly, that hair loss in squirrels is the result of mange, a disease caused by microscopic mites that burrow into the skin and are unseen by the naked eye. Hair loss attributed to the squirrel mange mite, Notoedres douglasi, has been reported in both fox and gray squirrels. Notoedric mange is different from sarcoptic mange. The latter, caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei, occurs primarily among red foxes and coyotes. Questions exist regarding the host specificity of mange mites. In light of new evidence, some pathologists now believe that sarcoptic mange mites are not as host-specific as previously thought. However, notoedric mange mites appear to be more host-specific, and don’t colonize non-hosts (like humans), although a few bites may occur. Transmission of notoedric mange to species other than squirrels has not been documented, including to canine and feline pets.

Symptoms of notoedric mange in squirrels includes loss of hair and dry, thickened and dark skin. Crust does not form on the skin in notoedric mange in squirrels like it does in sarcoptic mange in red fox. Mange is most commonly spread by direct animal to animal contact. Treatment of adult squirrels with mange is generally not recommended because reinfection from their nest is likely. An adult squirrel can survive mange if in otherwise good condition. While mange can be fatal to squirrels as a result of exposure during the winter, full recovery is often observed in squirrels.

While mange is commonly presumed to be the culprit, most hair loss in squirrels is caused by a variety of superficial fungal diseases generally termed dermatophytoses. Hair from squirrels infected with fungal agents is typically broken off at the skin, leaving a fine stubble of short hairs. Damp weather is thought to play a role in some fungal outbreaks. This past autumn was relatively wet for Indiana standards and may have contributed to the apparent observed increase of hair loss in squirrels this winter. Most animals will eventually gain an immune response and recover from the fungal infection without any apparent consequences.

Some hair loss in gray and flying squirrels is thought to be an inherited condition where the hair follicles are non-functional or absent, although studies confirming this have not been done. These squirrels have normal, but bare skin.

The next time you see a squirrel with hair loss, don’t become alarmed. In most cases, the hair will return with no apparent ill affects to the squirrel, other than perhaps some embarrassment and name calling among his squirrel friends.

Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory
Indiana DNR Permitted Wildlife Rehabilitators, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR)-Fish & Wildlife
Orphaned Wildlife, Got Nature? blog
Orphaned & Injured Animals, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)

Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

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9 thoughts on “Question: I saw a squirrel with no fur on its neck, both backside and underneath. What is this?

  1. Shirley Lisk says:

    I saw a couple squirrels who live in my oak tree with the patchy fur. I’m concerned with my dogs who are always out sniffing for them and maybe eating any droppings? Is it catchy.

  2. Brian MacGowan says:

    Hi Shirley,
    Thanks for your question. It is not something that your dogs will get. One way to look at it, if it was, we would have a lot of hairless dogs running around because most dogs are very curious about animal signs.
    Brian MacGowan

  3. Coleen says:

    My dog got sarcopony mange. The vet said it is probably from the 2 squirrels in my trees that have patchy hair loss. Now those squirrels have no fur on their neck and back and their skin is pink and bloody looking. Poor squirrels.

  4. Stacie Cupit says:


    1. Diana J Evans says:

      Mange is spread between animals by direct contact and shared nesting/bedding materials. Mange is treated with anti-parasite medications by licensed veterinarians. These may include topical and/or systemic treatments. The only way to prevent the spread of mange is to keep healthy animals away from infected animals. Removing/culling infected wild animals is a management approached used in some cases to reduce the spread of mange in free-ranging wildlife populations. ~Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extension Specialist

  5. Linda Cristel says:

    My husband found a Red Squirrel hiding under an overturned bird bath in our backyard. Our dog was barking and trying to get the squirrel. The squirrel climbed up the tree slowly, and after a while came down to the deck. It was weak and struggling to get back to its hiding place. It collapsed on its side and still struggling to crawl. Finally it died. It looked as if something had skinned it. It wasn’t patches of fur missing. It’s as if something had scalped it or stripped the fur completely off in a huge section. What could have done this to that poor squirrel?

  6. PHILIP Jones says:

    Very helpful. I just saw a gray squirrel on my patio fence. Hair loss on forehead and neck. If I still had my dog I would be concerned for him. Thanks for the info.

  7. Tami Turnbull says:

    I have a squirrel in my yard, we call him Harry, that has zero fur but a decent tail. Not a super full tail but Harry does have a tail. Every squirrel photo I’ve looked up of mange, the squirrel has no tail too. I have several photos as I give them treats 3-4 times a week. Should I be worried. None of the grey squirrels will go near Harry n I always Give home the biggest nuts as I feel bad for him. Will he be able to survive the winters? I’m in Southeastern Virginia near the Virginia Living Museum but we still get snow in January/Feb.
    Thank you
    Tami Turnbull

    1. Diana J Evans says:

      Thickening and darkening of the skin or crusting of the skin is often associated with mange (depends on which type). Fur loss can be extreme in some cases. If it is mange, treatment by a veterinarian would be required. It may also be a fungal infection of the skin which can cause hair loss. With these infections, the skin often appears normal and hair loss can be temporary. If hair loss coincides with freezing temperatures it can be fatal.

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