Community Arts Advocates, Inc.
39 Robeson Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Stephen Baird, Founder and President
Web site: www.CommunityArtsAdvocates.org
Jamaica Pond's Albino Gray Squirrel
by Stephen Baird info@CommunityArtsAdvocates.org
I first stumbled across Jamaica Pond's Albino Gray Squirrel in November 2004 when I took the first photograph above. A few folks who walked by while I was taking the picture stated there were originally three albino squirrels born in 2003. I would see this albino squirrel periodically during my nature walks around Jamaica Pond and took the additional photographs from 2004-2009.
A new litter of two albino squirrels were born in the spring of 2020 on the west side of Jamaica Pond. One is still thiving as of April 4, 2021. (Image taken December 16, 2020). This means it survived the first difficult year when 75-90 percent of the new squirrels born do not live. The chances of surviving the next 6-8 years increases dramatically!
I am very sad to report that the much cherished, admired and photographed Albino Gray Squirrel aka "Little White One" and "Alice in Wonder Land" was found dead by the shores of Jamaica Pond on April 18, 2009. The body was given to the Park Rangers. She was six years old. There is a chance the genes were passed on to another generation so we might see a relative in the future. Photo: March 2009.
Steve Garfield has a short video posted of the Jamaica Pond Albino Gray Squirrel on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/v/oKOP-mEIcxs&hl=en&fs=1
Photo April 30, 2008
I became curious about how rare occurences are albino squirrels and how long they might live in the urban environment. After reading a few newspaper articles, scientific studies, abstracts and sending a few notes with questions to specialist biologists I have gathered some information that is listed below.
- Albinism is rare, but common enough to be noticed. There are albino deer, fox, turtles, snakes, sparrows, finches, fish, insects and even people. Estimates vary that it happens between 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 100,000 or more.
- Jamaica Pond's Albino Gray Squirrels are a true albinos. They have pink eyes, claws, etc. The melanin pigment which controls fur, scale, skin, hair and eye color has been turned off by a recessive gene.
- Jamaica Pond's 2003-2009 Albino Gray Squirrel was a female and has been photographed mating. If it mates with a gray squirrel that has the albino recessive gene then there is dramatic increase of up to 1 in 4 chances that there will be more albino squirrels in the future around the pond.
- There are colonies of albino squirrels developed through semi-controlled breeding and protection policies by several towns in the United States, most notably Olney, Illinois. Dr. John Stencel, a biology teacher at Olney Central College conducted annual albino squirrel counts for 35 years and reported the results in the Midland Naturalist. The population fluctuated as all gray squirrel populations do with food supplies and disease, but the ratio remained around 1 in 4. (See Dr. Stencel's study abstract HERE)
- Gray squirrels live on average for 6-8 years and up to 10-12 years in the wild if they make it past the high 75 percent death rate for first year squirrels. Jamaica Pond's Albino Squirrel has already beaten the odds by making it past the first year. It is most likely to die in the short term because of being run over by one of the thousands of cars that pass-by daily on the Jamaica Way or attacked by an unleashed dog. The lack of eye pigment in albino animals decreases sight and has been thought to increase death rates. Dr. Stencel's albino study and a similar studies for the White Squirrel Research Institute by Dr. Robert Glesener, Associate Professor of Ecology and Biology, Emeritus, Brevard College (NC) on white squirrels with black eyes report that these squirrel populations remain stable once established in protected urban settings which seems to suggest pink eyes and white fur colors are not major factors in death rates.
- For a fun and well researched article on gray squirrels read Sam Piper's story HERE. It has great historical details on the mass "Immigrations" of 600,000 or more gray squirrels in the colonial period when hardwood forests covered the land.
- Additional References: Gray Squirrel study in North Carolina 1956-1964 HERE. State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry web page on Gray Squirrels HERE. University of Michigan web page on Gray Squirrels HERE. Roadside America story "White Squirrel Wars" HERE. Olney, Illinois web page on Albino Squirrels HERE.
Contact and Email Information Community Arts Advocates, Inc.
39 Robeson St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Stephen Baird Founder and President
Web site: www.CommunityArtsAdvocates.org
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