Albino squirrel update

March 29, 2010 • 10:39 am

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.

23 thoughts on “Albino squirrel update

  1. 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”

    1. 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).

      GCM

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

  3. 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.

    1. 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..

  4. 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.

    1. 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?

      GCM

    1. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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