White squirrels in Exeter
Exeter residents have fallen in love with their white squirrels and they don’t care who knows it!
You may have noticed these unique residents as you drive through Exeter, or at least their images which adorn banners and signage throughout the town.
While there are no species of white squirrel in North America, there are several genetic mutations that can cause the Eastern Grey squirrel to have white fur instead of the usual grey, black or reddish fur. Albinism is a mutation that causes an animal to have no pigmentation and also results in red eyes. There is another variant called leuticism which is also a genetic condition which affects pigmentation, but these squirrels have patchy colouration and dark eyes.
Still rarer is the white morph, which appears to be an inherited condition resulting in white fur not related to a lack of pigmentation. Exeter’s squirrels appear to be of the latter mutation.
These variations mean that white squirrels are rare but can be spotted virtually anywhere. What is interesting is that there are five locations in North America where white has become the predominant colour and have permanent thriving colonies of white squirrels, and Exeter has the most prominent population in Canada. (Other communities are Brevard, North Carolina; Marionville, Missouri; Olney, Illinois and Kenton, Tennessee. There is also a colony now known in the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood in Toronto.)
It is believed they have thrived due to the white colouration not being identified as prey by predators, and by receiving some degree of protection from residents who take great pride in their unique wildlife.
Exeter’s white squirrels can be seen in parks and trail areas, but are most prevalent in residential areas, particularly in the historic core area where they have been documented since 1912.
Have fun on the hunt for a selfie with a white squirrel, and make sure you tag #ExperienceExeter on your social media posts!