The Case of the Purple Squirrel

December 22, 2008

Little mysteries pose a lot of fun.

How did this come to be?

Pete the purple squirrel - Telegraph.co.uk.com

Pete the purple squirrel - Telegraph.co.uk.com

Pete, as the squirrel has come to be known, shows up most days at Meoncross School in Stubbington, Hants, England (near Portsmouth, in southeast England).

“We don’t think he is a mutant squirrel but he may have had a mishap around the school, [said Dr Mike Edwards, an English teacher at the school.]

“The old building where we have seen him nipping in and out is a bit of a graveyard for computer printers. He may have found some printer toners in there.

“We haven’t seen any purple baby squirrels yet.”

TV wildlife expert Chris Packham believes Pete will moult and lose his purple fur in time for spring.

He said: “I have never seen anything like it before.

“Squirrels will chew anything even if it’s obviously inedible. It is possible he has been chewing on a purple ink cartridge and then groomed that colouring into his fur.

“Alternatively he may have fallen into a bucket containing a weak colour solution that has stained his fur.

“Underneath there’s a normal grey squirrel who has just given himself an unusual hair colour – you would pay a fortune for that in some salons.

What will creationists make of this?

Squirrels come in different colors naturally, too.  The squirrels common throughout the eastern U.S., the eastern grey squirrel,  have a black variant in some parts of Canada and the U.S.  Some of these black squirrels were imported to Washington, D.C., during the Theodore Roosevelt administration.  When we lived in Cheverly, Maryland (1983-1987), we had families of black squirrels spotted among the grey squirrels in our next-door forest.  The two groups rarely mixed, oddly enough.

East of the Russell Senate Office Building there was an albino squirrel for several years, prior to 1985.  One friend said she’d seen at least two at the same time in the same park.  White squirrels show up from time to time, either albinos or mutants.  Naturally, squirrels tend to be either grey or reddish-brown, most of the time.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Current.com.

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