Having moved to Easton at the end of March (note to self: don’t move your household during a pandemic), I was excited to put up my bird feeders and see how the birds differed from those at my previous, very rural location in Denton. Up went the feeders—one in an ancient flowering crab tree, one in an enormous spruce that happens to be right outside my office window. Bring on the feathered friends!
Okay, a week later, I understood why none of our neighbors had bird feeders out—oh, sure, there were a few blackbirds around, but mostly what I had was squirrels. Big squirrels, little squirrels, healthy-coated squirrels, rat-tail squirrels—up to half a dozen at and below each of my three feeders most of the day.
We spent some time figuring out how to at least reduce the numbers of squirrels that could access the seed, but we still became somewhat resigned to being squirrel-watchers instead of bird-watchers. And then, early one morning in mid-June, we noticed a bright white interloper among the fuzzy grays—wow, what on Earth is that??
After taking a few pictures, I ran inside to learn more about white squirrels—I knew it wasn’t an albino because there was some pigmentation and the eyes did not have that distinctive red-rimming of albinism. I had not heard about “morphs,” as the squirrel folks refer to it. Apparently, there are quite a few variations in color that show up in our traditional eastern gray squirrels. Click here for some examples.
We saw the white squirrel again later that day but haven’t had a visit since. Here’s another picture that captures his/her beautiful white tail.
For those of you local, we live near the YMCA and close to Idlewild Park. . . perhaps others have seen this white squirrel?
Below is map of sightings in the United States created by researcher Rob Nelson and Roland Kays, a zoologist at North Carolina State University. You can help them keep track of white squirrel populations by logging your sightings!
I hope to have the chance to see this squirrel again!
by Beth Lawton, Maryland Master Naturalist
Here’s a few more links for you to explore:
Have You Ever Seen a White Squirrel? (May 2020) – a lovely blog from Laura Moss at Treehugger.com – includes a succinct explanation of the difference between leucism and albinism.
Demystifying the Illusive White Squirrel (April 2019) – includes some great pictures of different morphs.