The Little Children’s Park has a treasure.
For the little children who are lucky — or maybe just observant enough or still enough — around the oaks on the east side of the park, there’s a white squirrel that comes down to forage.
A photography club caught it on film a few months ago.
And last week, Mayor Connie Moran posted a short video where Charles Ponder showed the little critter in action.
Moran posted: “WHITE SQUIRREL sighted...”
The park is at the corner of Washington Avenue and Calhoun Street. She and her husband walked over and saw it themselves.
She said she believes the squirrel lives in the four water oaks at end of the wooden walkway from the parking lot.
“He was having a grand ole time running around on the ground, grabbing an acorn, and scurrying up the tree. Doesn’t seem to mind people much! We don’t think he’s an albino, looks like he has dark eyes, which would mean he is a morph of the eastern gray squirrel. Still very rare around here!”
The wildlife rescue folks second the notion that he’s a rare critter for these parts, based on their experience.
The white squirrels are rare enough that a white squirrel in Olney, Illinois has his own page on the city’s website.
There’s a name for the condition — leucism or leucistic, where there is a partial loss of pigmentation in animals and birds. It’s a genetic mutation. And it appears to happen regularly in certain communities.
The white squirrel also may be rare because of predators. They stand out and become easy prey to hawks and owls.
The little fellow in the Little Children’s Park is not an albino. They are a bit more rare, said Mark LaSalle with the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.
With an albino, you can see pink skin under the hair and they have pink eyes, he said.
LaSalle said he has heard reports of about a half-dozen white squirrels in the last 10 years.
“It’s exciting when people see it,” he said. “It means people are looking.
“If it helps people observe nature,” he said. “That’s great.”