The White Squirrels of Shelton

November, 2016 by Ray Bendici

The Damned Story: Often heard at my home in Shelton from first-time visitors: "Oooh look! A white squirrel right in your backyard!"

My response: "Yay. They're still rats."

Okay, I should be more excited to have something that's considered "damned" living a few feet from my house—when I first moved to Shelton, I remember the first time I saw one of these so-called "ghost squirrels" run across the street, I almost drove off the road. But now, after these critters spend the day tearing up my lawn, chewing on my kids' toys (wiffle balls, in particular, seem to be a favorite) and leaving a plethora of picked-clean pine cones in their wake, it's hard to appreciate them for the "special" vermin they are.

Well, from what I can tell, they're not so special. They're a variation of the common Eastern gray squirrel, with populations in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, upstate New York and even in North Carolina, where in the town of Brevard, they have have an annual white squirrel festival.

I'm not buying a ticket any time soon . . .

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These creatures have been spotted in various sections of Shelton, and more recently, have spread (not unlike a plague) into Stratford. As you might expect (hope), they don't have overly large populations because their bright fur makes them an easy target for hawks and other raptors.

white_sq1aA quick note: The squirrels spotted in my backyard and in other places in Shelton are not albino—it's hard to tell from these pictures, but they have black eyes, not the red eyes characteristic of albinism.

Our Damned Experience: These photos were taken in my backyard and I can pretty much go outside on any given day and snap pictures of these annoying buggers. This particular squirrel I photographed is about a year or two old, and lives with a pack of gray ones high up in a pine tree. Over the past ten years that I've lived here, there always seems to be one or two white ones around, mixed in and living in racial harmony with their gray brethren.

If You Go: You're not coming to my house, damned or not!

However, I can't stop you from cruising the Coram Road section of Shelton and taking a few of specimens home with you (please please please!), or even better, if one crosses the road in front of you, preparing it for early taxidermy with your car.

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Comments

Ohhh Ray, I didn't actually get around to reading this one till now. I'm cracking up!!!!

Submitted by Joan (not verified) on
The only good squirrel is a dead squirrel!!!! Wishing you and yours a 4 dead squirrel year!

Submitted by matt (not verified) on
We used to have 2 white squirrelss in my neighborhood in waterbury about 5 years ag.

Submitted by andrew (not verified) on
the squirrels in waterbury are black. i was shocked.

Submitted by Jill (not verified) on
This is awesome! When I was a child we had two white squirrels that lived in my street in Connecticut. And they clearly didn't have read eyes. I'll never forget sharing it to my class in 2nd grade, and my teacher thought I was nuts. She even brought it up to my mom when she came to pick me up. My mom just looked at her and said "Yeah, they've been there for years." Unfortunately it's been years and they're long gone. Haven't seen them since the late 80's.

Submitted by Chris D from CT (not verified) on
I live a few blocks from Shelton City Hall and I see lots of black squirrels and white squirrels. The first time I noticed a white one was in that old grave yard on Long Hill Ave just before the Route 8 overpass. It spooked me, for a second I thought it was the ghost of Bullwinkle's little buddy.

Submitted by Sikes (not verified) on
I too live on Coram Road and see them on my deck all the time. I have been here 11 years now and we seem to get new white squirrels every year or so. There was a very big white male 4-5 years ago with a very distinctive Roman nose but I have not seen him in a while.

Submitted by judy (not verified) on
i have seen then at rockwell park bristol ct and off e albert st torrington ct

Submitted by Nanceen (not verified) on
In West Hartford there are some black squirrels tipped with silver. Very pretty.

Submitted by dale russo (not verified) on
i lived on toas st. in the coram rd section and they were all over the place. If you go where all the Rhode Island streets and drive around you'll see one every now and then.

Submitted by Amanda (not verified) on
You're correct that the white squirrels are not albinos - rather, they have a different genetic condition known as leucism (pronounced "luke-ism"). Leucistic animals display a reduction/absence of all pigments, not just melanin (black), with the usual exception of the pigment cells in the eyes - leading to a white animal with dark eyes, much like this squirrel. Opposignly, there is a phenotype (gene expression) that involves an increase in dark pigments, known as melanism. This causes a darker-colored/black variant of the animal, such as the black squirrel that lives in my yard (in Easton, CT).

Submitted by Christopher Hob... (not verified) on
I have never seen a white squirrel, only grey ones. One of them used to come in my bedroom window and sit on my bedside table staring at me until I got up and fed her. One used to come over and take peanuts out of my hand. Squirrels are quite friendly if you are nice to them and talk to them in a calm and friendly tone of voice. So if the white ones are friendly, just be nice to them and feed them.

Submitted by Jon (not verified) on
About 5 years back in farmington i saw a jet black squirrel off of Meadow road near Tunxis Meade.

Submitted by Doug (not verified) on
This was funny-I live in Bridgeport and we have had a bunch of albino squirrels over the past 20 years. We learned not to tell anyone because otherwise losers with cameras start showing up

Submitted by Roach (not verified) on
I saw a squirrel with a blue tail once.. My guess is that someone painted it that color. Either that or it was one awesome squirrel

Submitted by sue black (not verified) on
we feed squirrels in our yard and only recently saw a blue tailed one. we also have a red tailed one that is regular. no e.mail now due to hackers I will be checking back to this site I live down south.

Submitted by Sean Barsky (not verified) on
We used to have a few of them in the North end of Stratford in the late 70's.

Submitted by MisterSpuddy (not verified) on
I saw a white squirrel in Shelton once, just once (but then I don't go there very often) I've seen black ones in Washington Square Park and Tompkins Square Park in NYC. I have the mostly gray variety, with some red/orange thrown in. Love squirrels, my yard is a wildlife habitat and I've assisted a rehabber friend of mine in the past and would like to do more. And all you squirrel haters- go to Australia, will you?

Submitted by Andrew (not verified) on
Grew up in Stratford, and at Long Brooke Park there was a Black squirrel I remember seeing anywhere between the park and the Police station, a few years later it would show up with a white one much like you described. However I didn't realize how they were uncommon till recently Also while attending Stratford Academy I remember seeing a squirrel that appeared to have grey fur and a light orange tail. Whether it was natural or not I cannot say.

Submitted by John (not verified) on
There is a small colony of white squirrels at Lafayette School. I used to see them there all the time. To be more precise, I believe they are living in or around that old white garage in the parking lot next to the building. They have also spread to Booth Hill park in stratford, or maybe its the other way around, I'm not sure.

Submitted by MisterSpuddy (not verified) on
Bill, what you are suggesting (relocating) is actually CRUEL to squirrels - not to mention illegal!- and almost guarantees they WON'T survive long enough to enjoy the supposed riches of your yard. Squirrels have home ranges and will drive off any interlopers, which will lead to the new ones starving, getting hit by cars, eaten by prey, etc. LEAVE THE SQUIRRELS IN OTHER AREAS ALONE! I'm sure that you will have squirrels in your own area eating out of your hand if you have patience.

Submitted by Bill Lubak (not verified) on
My daughter saw a jet black squirrel off Reidville drive in Waterbury just the other day. I set 2 havahart traps 2 days straight. I caught 2 grey squirrels the first day and a possum the second day. I am interested in relocating some black and white squirrels to my home in Watertown. My backyard is a sanctuary to everything! If anyone would allow me to set live traps on their property, I would be more than happy to rid them of a few suirrels!

Submitted by Bill Lubak (not verified) on
Actually the black squirrels that are common around the Washington park/Sylvan area of Waterbury are the product of relocation from Vermont. A wiman who used to live on Sylvan avenue had trapped a couple when in Vermont and released them in Waterbury. That had to be a good 30 years ago from what I remember. These are melanistic. Melanistic animals tend to be more common the farther north you go and that includes snakes. It's natures way of absorbing warmth. Melanism is a co-dominate gene, meaning if a melanistic animal were to breed with a "normal" looking grey squirrel, some of the offspring would be melanistic and some would be normal. The normal looking ones would not have the gene nor be able to pass it on. That differs with the Leucistic squirrels of Shelton and albino squirrels. The leucistic and albino squirrels carry a recessive gene. In order to produce leucistic or albino offpring, both animals would need to carry the recessive gene. Albino to albino would or leucistic to leucistis wouls produce all albino or leucistic animals. An albino or leucistic to a normal colored animal would produce normal looking offspring although about 66% or the normal looking animals would carry the recessive gene. If two normal looking animals carrying the gene were to breed, a certail percentage off offspring would be albino or leucistic. With that said, All black or melanistic animals are more common than leucistic or albinos.

Submitted by Bill Lubak (not verified) on
On 1/11/2012 I set a trap where my daughter kept seein a jet black squirrel. Keep in mind that this was a very bust area of Waterbury next to busy roads and an interstate. All sightings were in the road! I went back to check the trap and much to my surprise I had not one, but a pair of jet black squirrels! They were immediately released into my yard and seem to be thriving here. Keep in mind that I live adjacent to a far on 2 dead end streets. I feed everything! I go through 80lbs of high end seed, 7 suet cakes, blue seal crunchies and 5lbs of peanuts a week! I have a small pond with waterfall also that is the center of attraction on those hot summer days. My backyard is basically a nature preserve! Even the racoons are welcome and visit nightly. Hopefully this will be the start of a black squirrel colony here in Watertown.

Submitted by MisterSpuddy (not verified) on
Bill, as I said previously, it's usually NOT a good idea to relocate them because they do best in their home habitat and if moved, those native to the new area may chase them out and they won't have a good source. BUT....in this case it sounds like they would have ended up as road kill if left where they were and it sounds like you're making sure everyone gets fed. Do they have enough shelter/nesting places? Maybe you could slap together some nesting boxes.

Submitted by Bill Lubak (not verified) on
I surely beleive that they would have been road kill. I saw a dead black squirrel getting off the exit there at Harper's ferry road. This was reidville Drive /route 84. I do have a few Larger boxes up now but plan on building a few more. I am looking for a place I can buy some cedar and have already downloaded squirrel house plans from the Audobaun. I understood your concerns but I beleive I did the right thing. They have plenty of area here and seem to be fitting in with the rest of the squirrels here. I will keep everyone updated and hopefully add some pictures. Since this is a co-dominant trait, it shouldn't take long to see the progress.

Submitted by Keelie (not verified) on
It's funny reading about white squirrels, but also seeing all the comments of people amazed about black ones! I live in Westfield, Massachusetts, and there's black squirrels running all OVER the place up here. Our 'mascot' is even a black squirrel. Not so rare as you all may think. Come visit some time! Hang out in Stanley Park, in Westfield, Ma. You'll see TONS of black squirrels. :)

Submitted by Bill Lubak (not verified) on
I guess once intoduced to an area the population goes crazy! (Either you have them or you don't!). Being a co-dominant trait half of their offspring even breeding with a grey will be black and black to black all black. I have been getting reports of black red squirrels in Winstead. The most recent sighting last week. I've driven to Shelton three times in the last month with camera in hand and have yet to see a white one. I walked Riverview park, drove coram road and the road island streets and even the old burial ground near route 8. I even checked out the Lafayette school area. My guess is that once the leaves are off the trees, most fall victim to predators. The population is probablt resurected when new offspring are born from those carrying the recessive gene.

Submitted by MisterSpuddy (not verified) on
The ONLY white squirrel I've ever seen "in person" (or would that be "in squirrel"?) was in Shelton, on Howe Ave.

Submitted by Bill Lubak (not verified) on
The only one I've ever seen "In squirrel" was in Beardsley Park in Bridgeport. It was in the park, not in a cage. I beleive it was an albino though and not the leucistic one's that they see in Shelton. I figured this time of year with no leaves on the trees they would be easy to spot. I walked Riverview park from one end to the other on several occasions and only saw a couple of grey's. There were however hawks flying overhead following the river. I just completed two super nice squirrel boxes that I need to hang. I built the basic boxes and then laminated sheets of tree bark onto the boxes so the squirrels can climb on them with ease. I drilled 3" holes on the left side of each box so the squirrels can go from the tree right into the box. I just need to borrow a ladder to get up high enough to hang them.

Submitted by MisterSpuddy (not verified) on
How hard is it to build one? I worry that the squirrels around here don't have enough nesting places. I just planted a nice fast-growing (I hope!) tree but it'll be a while before it will be big enough for them to nest in. There used to be SO many trees in my area before people began cutting them down- most of the time for no good reason.

Submitted by Jenn (not verified) on
There is a genetic "glitch" called leucism. Unlike albinos, leucistic animals have reduced levels of all kinds of pigmentation. They don't have pink eyes. Any animal, even humans can be leucistic, and sometimes the entire body is not affected. Maybe that's what's going on with these squirrels. If you do a google images search of leucistic animals, you'll see all kinds of really cool animals that have been affected to different degrees.

Submitted by Jenn (not verified) on
Sorry, didn't realize that anyone had already touched on the whole leucism thing.

Submitted by Jenn (not verified) on
My Honduran Red Point Cichlids have produced leucistic fry. So cool!

Submitted by Bill Lubak (not verified) on
Hi Mr. Spuddy, there are plans online if you google squirrel house. The plans I went from use basic 1" X 10" lumber. I used 1" X 12" since it was what I had available. Basig size of the box is 10" X 16". You can construct one house out of one 8' board. Most people add a little ladder or some small pieces of wood near the entrance hole since a squirrel can't grip smooth lumber. You can use "rough cut " lumber or "rough up" the house when done. I chose to build the boxes and then I cut sheets of bark from the trees that came down in the storm. I glued the sheets to the nest box using liquid nails and brads and then trimmed the bark flush. The hole shuld be located on the left side or the right side of the nest box , not on the front as in an owl house. That way the squirrel can go from the tree right into the house. A 3" hole is good for grey squirrels.

Submitted by MisterSpuddy (not verified) on
Thanks! I have so many here that this spring I think I'll try to get some made or make them myself. I have a couple that sleep right outside my window- LOVE that!!!

Submitted by Bill Lubak (not verified) on
I finally went to the neighbors and borrowed a ladder. It was cold and windy but the houses are up! I filled them half way with leaves and put a couple handfuls of peanuts in each as an incentive to move in! They look great in the trees and really blend in nicely with the bark sides.

Submitted by John (not verified) on
Bill Lubak, I live in Shelton and go to school in Winsted, I have seen black squirrels in the area of NCCC, near the arts and sciences building and the stream in front of it. On one occasion I saw three at the same time, two in one tree and one in one about 30 feet away. If you aren't able to find white squirrels in the area of Lafayette school, try booth park in stratford, I saw one there about 6 months ago not too far from the playground. Hope that helps.

Submitted by Bill Lubak (not verified) on
Thanks for the info. I have confirmation of black squirrels in Winstead on Pratt road. My office mate lives there and said her husband is going to shoot the black squirrel because no matter what he does to keep him away from the feeders he manages to get to them. She also descibed him as smaller and more aggressive than the grey squirrels. This leaves me to beleive he is a melanistic red squirrel. She saw one last week about 3 miles from her home also. Anyome wishing to rid there property of these squirrels I will be more than happy to relocate them at no charge. I don't want to see them killed, especially the black and white squirrels. I have 5 days off coming up at the end of the week. I'm going to explore Winstead and will probably head back up to Shelton for another go at it. Thanks again for the leads.

Submitted by Bill Lubak (not verified) on
Hey John, your lead proved good regarding Winstead. I have been exploring there the past couple of weeks looking for black squirrels. Turned out a friend of mine that I work with lives near the university and allowed me to set live traps on his property. His neighborhood is infested with squirrels. His neighbor begged me to come back, she has them in her attic, walls and her barn. To some they have become a real problem. Over the last two weeks I trapped and released lots of greys. One red although reds seem smater and more reluctant to enter traps. They do however figure out how to get the peanuts from outside the traps! I did manage to trap one black male. Has a little more bownish tinging than the other two that I released so I named him cocoa. He aclimated immediately and he arrives at the peanut feeders faithfully between 6:30 and 7:00am every morning. Should have a good base now to get a colony going in Watertown. I sit with my coffee every morning and watch him and the others come for their breakfast. I am still curious about the "small black squirrel" with the attitude that visits my co-workers feeder. I beleive it is a melanistic red squirrel by her description. I have not been able to verify it yet.

Submitted by RequiredName (not verified) on
Dude, you need to chill out. They're just squirrels. They're not that difficult to cohabitate with. I admit I find it hard to think the white squirrels are really so special or indigenous to Shelton.

Submitted by Greenleecw (not verified) on
Amanda, thanks for your previous comments on this site as white squirrel here has dark eyes. 2 Black squirrels here as well seem quite aggressive! You’re correct that the white squirrels are not albinos – rather, they have a different genetic condition known as leucism (pronounced “luke-ism”). Leucistic animals display a reduction/absence of all pigments, not just melanin (black), with the usual exception of the pigment cells in the eyes – leading to a white animal with dark eyes, much like this squirrel.

Submitted by Ruth (not verified) on
I just saw one today (after hearing of them for several years) on Perry Hill Road near the golf course! He (or she) was beautiful!

Submitted by Greenleecw (not verified) on
My Leucistic white squirrel has disappeared since mid-Aug. Believe pushed out by veeeery aggressive black squirrels as neighbor has seen him since. Amazing how aggressive the latter are. Wonder if some day they will knock off the grays? Any idea how rare the whites are? 1 in 100,000 was what I saw In one England search. CWG in Westport

Submitted by Keri (not verified) on
I live near the section of Coram and Howe ave and have seen our white squirrels since I moved here 13 yrs ago. i moved here from Iowa and we only had red colored squirrels so I had never seen a white one let alone a black one. Pretty cool!

Submitted by Jorjé DeJesUs (not verified) on
toodles bitches!

Submitted by Carl (not verified) on
I haven't seen the white squirrels the last year or two in the Coram area of Shelton, and the one I photographed on my deck (15 years ago) does have a pink/red eye. They used to be all over the area. Not so much any more....

Submitted by Bill B (not verified) on
In Stratford back in the early 60's there were two white squirrels that hung around the Motil pond area. I've seen a very few since. My teacher thought I was a liar when I mentioned it in class. Teachers are always right.

Submitted by Squirrel Lover (not verified) on
These are beautiful wildlife and no one should be encouraging roadkillers, even in jest. Be damned indeed!