Albino squirrel update

by Greg Mayer

Observant reader Chris Helzer saw an albino squirrel outside the National Museum of Natural History a few days after I did, and got a much better picture of it, which he has kindly allowed me to post here.

Albino gray squirrel outside the USNM, Washington, DC, 28 March 2010.

This is probably the same squirrel I saw, and it seems to be on the same tree. In Chris’s much better picture you can see the pink eye, showing that it is a true albino, not merely albinistic.

UPDATE. I came across this posting at The Chicken or the Egg blog about white squirrels at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, my (and Jerry’s) alma mater. It seems that white squirrels have an affinity for natural history museums. Note that the MCZ white squirrel is albinistic, not true albino (it has a dark eye). Chicken also links to this wonderful site, the White Squirrel Research Institute, devoted to the white squirrels of Brevard, North Carolina. The Brevard squirrels, like the MCZ ones, are also albinistic rather than albino.


  1. NewEnglandBob
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Next, they will be interviewing Mr. Albino Gray on Nightline.

    Faux News will then have “Illegal Immigrant White Squirrels Taking Over Border Towns in Texas”

  2. salon_1928
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    This squirrel obviously possesses magical properties…Hansome!

  3. Jonn Mero
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Too much rabbit fodder and too few nuts!

  4. orangejuice
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    What exactly is it to be “merely albinistic” as opposed to a bona fide albino?

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted March 29, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Albinistic means there is a major reduction in dark pigment, but not a complete absence. There may be low levels of pigment throughout the body, or particular areas may be lacking pigment. Albino means a complete absence of dark pigment (including the eyes, which are pink or red in true albinos).


  5. Hempenstein
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Are individuals from multi-colored species like, say, chipmunks, less likely to be leucistic/albinistic?

  6. Neil
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised that there is not some sort of cult in DC organized around this “sacred” albino squirrel, like the Lacota white buffalo. Then again, maybe there is.

    • andrew
      Posted March 30, 2010 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      the university of Louisville campus, where i went to grad school, has had a few albino squirrels for years; they have a sort of legendary status on campus, though i’m not sure if they’re considered sacred or not..

  7. MadScientist
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    That’s pretty good – and the creature didn’t have to be stuffed and mounted for the photograph. 🙂 I wonder if they’ll eat acorns; I never had any oak trees in Arizona so I couldn’t try them while I was there. They sure love peanuts though – I used to watch them stuff their cheeks and run away.

  8. Posted March 29, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    How long do squirrels live? I saw this one in the Capitol area in 2003.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted March 29, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      According to Hartley H.T. Jackson in Mammals of Wisconsin (although he includes observations he made on squirrels in Chevy Chase, MD),

      “Its normal longevity in the wild is probably less than five years. The potential longevity is about twelve years.”

      Yours is a true albino too– in what part of DC did you see it?


      • Posted March 30, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        IIRC, I was approaching the Mall from the northeast. I might have just crossed Pennsylvania Avenue, but I didn’t record a precise location.

  9. Posted March 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    We’ve got a couple of albino squirrels I see on my walk to work here in Toronto’s Trinity-Bellwoods park.

    I’ve snapped a couple of photos here and there.

    The history of them in Toronto is pretty long: now we even have a cafe named after them across the park.

  10. bigjohn756
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Iz them albinos better eatin’ than the reglar colord ones?

    • Posted March 30, 2010 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      I’m a redneck and squirrel hunter by background and temperament. I’ve never seen a white squirrel, albino or otherwise, in the wild. I expect they would do much better in an urban environment where the predators are few.

  11. Posted March 29, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Obviously, this squirrel evolved because of all the snow we had in Washington this year.

  12. daveWTC
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I had two of them in my backyard in MN two years running a few years back. The rest are gray.

  13. Robert
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    This is probably unrelated, but I’m from Southern Ontario, and grew up with black and grey squirrels. When I went to grad school and started meeting large numbers of Americans, they marveled at the black squirrels, which I thought was funny because they seemed so ordinary to me. Now I live in Boston, and I miss those black squirrels! When I go back home, the black ones look exotic to me now.

  14. Your Name's Not Bruce?
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Just outside my hometown of London, Ontario, is a town called Exeter, famed for its white (but not albino) squirrels:

    Never seen them myself, though.

  15. T. Fife
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    My wife received her graduate degree at the University of Louisville (as mentioned before, UofL has albino squirrels). She now teaches at Western Kentucky University . . . which also has white squirrels (but not albino). They also visit our backyard. In fact, I just saw one in my neighbor’s yard.

  16. beastlyone
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    This shot was taken in Washington, DC near the Vietname memorial in December of 2006.

    • beastlyone
      Posted March 31, 2010 at 12:22 am | Permalink

      Nerts. I meant Vietnam.

  17. Andy Vargas
    Posted April 3, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Hey! I saw that same squirrel back in November!

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