Monday, October 12, 2009

HOME OF THE WHITE SQUIRRELS

I wasn't expecting Olney, Illinois to be the "Home of the White Squirrels"


I'd never before seen a white squirrel. And I didn't anticipate seeing one when I rolled into Olney, Illinois early on a Sunday morning.  But there, on one of the signs welcoming visitors, "Home of the White Squirrels."  What a strange and interesting welcome!

A bit later in the morning, my hosts laughingly but proudly explained to me that somehow, generations ago, the town became populated with an abundance of albino squirrels.  The stories of how it happened are conflicting and mostly the stuff of town legend.  But the high concentration of squirrels of this gene pool in and around Olney, Illinois is real.

The snow white squirrels with pale eyes are a source of community care and pride.  Each year, a meticulous count is conducted.  Last year, over 400 white squirrels were identified. The white squirrel is featured on the city seal and on a patch on local police officers' shoulders.

I had to see one of these critters.  On an afternoon bicycle ride, my friends took me slowly through the city park so that I might see a white squirrel for myself.  I saw lots of gray squirrels; they still outnumber white squirrels 10-1.  I didn't see any on the first few passes through the park, but then a snow white squirrel bounded across the roadway just ahead of me.  I pursued it with a camera.  It climbed a telephone pole and made its way along the wire and to a tree to get away from me.  I gazed up at it, fascinated.

"Now I can die in peace," I joked to my friends.  "You really need to get a life, John," they shot back.

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1 comment:

  1. What a great post! And I have this vision of you with camera in hand, chasing the squirrel...I can almost hear the squirrel's bronx cheer from his getaway spot...

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