The White Squirrel and a Bird Feeder
Have You Seen a White Squirrel Stealing Your Wild Bird Peanuts?
If you feed the wild birds in your garden then you may not wish to see any squirrels on your property! These determined and tenacious little creatures will overcome extraordinary obstacles to reach your wild bird seed. However, if you saw a pure white squirrel then you might feel differently as these animals are incredibly rare and very beautiful. Indeed you might think that you have seen a ghost but not so! White squirrels do exist but why are their coats pure white?
It’s all in the Genes
It is genetic mutations which cause squirrels to be white. These are a rare occurrence and so any sighting is something to savour. These animals are easier for predators to hunt and so their survival rate can be low making adult specimens even rarer. White Squirrels are the result of either albinism or leucism.
It is thought that as few as 1 in 100,000 squirrels are born white as a result of albinism. This is a condition in which the gene which controls pigmentation is mutated. The lack of pigment also means that the squirrels’ eyes are pink. It is estimated that there are as many as 5 million grey squirrels in the UK and so there may be no more than 50 albino squirrels in the wild.
An Albino squirrel was recently spotted in a back garden near East Grinstead, Sussex. Care worker Suzie Chadwick has reported that the squirrel has appeared every day for a week and always heads for the wild bird peanuts and seed in her feeder. Several other grey squirrels come to her garden and the albino sometimes has to fight for his time at the feeder but he is feisty and likes to show who is boss!
Back in 2009, Albi the albino squirrel hit the headlines worldwide. He had been living in the churchyard in Dorking high street for five years and was a firm favourite with local residents, especially the children. Sadly Albi was run over and killed and a shrine was then established in his honour. The story received an incredible amount of media attention which was indicative of how rare these animals are and how much they are appreciated by those who see them.
Albino squirrels are rare but squirrels with leucism could be even rarer. Leucism is a condition which involves a mutated gene. The animals’ coats are white but unlike in albinos, their eyes are black. This means that these squirrels do not suffer from the issues with their sight that albinos often endure.
Wildlife experts suggest that less than one in a million squirrels are born with this condition. A squirrel with leucism was spotted and photographed in Cheshire last year at Marbury Country Park. Sightings have continued into 2016 and so this squirrel appears to be thriving.
Keep your eyes peeled and watch the as you could be lucky enough to spot a rare white squirrel in your own garden!