Leucism

White Squirrel (Gray Squirrel)

Last week, I posted about a white hummingbird I saw recently.  This week, we’ll be looking at another white critter I saw a month ago.

I was out at Blendon Woods Metro Park in early October, observing the tail end (so to speak) of the autumn warbler migration.  I was finishing up the afternoon at the nature center, looking for birds in and around the feeders and the artificial stream there, when something ghostly caught my eye.

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It’s hard to miss a white creature against a dark background- I bet many leucistic animals don’t live long lives.  Leucism is a recessive genetic trait marked by the absence of pigment in fur or feathers, somewhat resembling albinism.  This leucistic animal was an Eastern Gray Squirrel, a very common tree squirrel in Ohio.  This beautiful creature had an acorn in its mouth, running along through the leaves.  It crossed the artificial stream with graceful leaps-

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I was very happy to get photos of this squirrel.  I imagine it’s harder work staying alive when you are more easily spotted due to your coloration.

Leucistic animals are pretty rare, but are very easy to notice when you do see them 🙂  There are several locations around the country that pride themselves on having such ‘white squirrels’ in their area.  For instance, in Brevard, North Carolina, a local population there apparently descended from a pair that escaped from an overturned circus truck in 1949.  Now, up to 27% of their Gray Squirrels are white!

Leucistic wildlife is typically rare, so enjoy it when you do see it.  Always have a camera handy!