I'm Dreaming of a White Squirrel

Olney, Illinois is famous for white squirrels. In 1943 there were 1000 of the little guys but by the '90s the population remained constant around 200. The town has implemented a rather strict set of laws to protect them. Dogs are not allowed to roam free anywhere in Olney and in 1997 cats were prohibited from roaming free as well. Running over an Olnean white squirrel, which has right of way on all streets, will get you a $200 fine.

Olney's white squirrel community is a true albino population, which has managed to support itself for over sixty years. According to the White Squirrel Institute the Olnean squirrel population represents "mutants of some gene that delegates the use of the pigment (melanin) gene, not mutants of the melanin gene itself."

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There are two theories as to the origins of Olney's white squirrel infestation both of which are more enjoyable if you play banjo music in your head while reading them. I found them both on the City of Olney community page:

(more below the fold)

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Olney's Finest

The William Yates Stroup Hypothesis:

While William Yates Stroup was hunting squirrels in the woods near his home in the southeast Olney Township he saw a gray squirrel run into a nest and shot the den killing the mother and knocking out two pure white baby squirrels. He put them into the pockets of his game bag and took them home with him, turning them over to his sons, George and Era Strop who raised them by hand feeding them milk by a spoon. The little squirrels lived, thrived and grew well. That fall farmer Stroup brought the squirrels to Olney and presented them to the Jasper Banks Saloon and displayed them in his window. They attracted attention and were a fine drawing card for what was called "JAP's Place."
The albinos were finally released when the Illinois legislature passed a law prohibiting the confinement of wildlife, which included squirrels. The squirrels were taken to Oakwood, the home of Thomas Tippit commonly called Tippit's Woods and released. The Tippit residence was located at 802 N. Silver Street, but has since been torn down.

The George W. Ridgely Hypothesis:

George W. Ridgely moved to a farm about six miles southeast of Sumner, In 1899 George discovered a cream-colored squirrel and a white squirrel playing on his farm near Sumner. He tried to capture them but was unsuccessful. Finally he asked his neighbor John Robinson to help him, but they were unsuccessful. Finally the men constructed a box-like trap and a cage eight feet by six feet. They captured them and were able to raise several litters before bringing a pair to Olney in 1902. Mr. Ridgely sold the pair to Jasper C. Banks for $5 each. Mr. Banks made a green box for his albinos and displayed them in his saloon window, hoping they would attract customers and cause them to go inside and get a better look and have a drink.

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Little known fact, Olney's white squirrels love being picked up by their tails! Go ahead, don't be shy.

Both of these stories raise the question as to why more bars don't feature live squirrels? This sounds like the greatest idea since the MegaTouch machine (specifically Photo Hunt) was introduced to the bar top at Smokey Joe's in West Philly.

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These are Grey Squirrels, right? (okay, white Grey Squirrels). Where I live, there are only many thousands of Red Squirrels. First time I travelled to Ontario, I was astounded by the size of the Grey Squirrels there, most of whom were actually coal black.

I'm not gonna take you up on the holding them up by their tails suggestion. I have a feeling you might be lyin' about that.

law prohibiting the confinement of wildlife

I assume shooting wildlife was still ok.

By the way: Who goes hunting and then shoots squirrels?

By Don Quijote (not verified) on 18 Dec 2007 #permalink

I don't know where in Illinois Olney is, but on the other side of the Mississippi here in Hannibal, MO there is a persistent population of black squirrels living in Riverview Park, a wooded area of steep ravines atop a bluff which overlooks the river. Ebony and ivory, eh?

to Don Quijote: Lots of people go hunting for squirrels. They are good eating I hear. Recipes abound such as, Squirrel compote, squirrel crock-pot delight, squirrel sandwich with cranberry and horseradish dressing....the list is endless. :)


I live in Olney, and the squirrels are fairly friendly, and very albino. White fur, pink eyes, the whole thing. The love McDs french fries, but I wouldn't think they enjoyed being picked up by their tails. I'm not born and bred from Olney, so I'm not sure about the origin, but the town is dead serious about the squirrels having right-of-way on the roads!

LOL - "Ghost Squirrels"

I've worked in wildlife rehab and I can tell you, hands-down, grey (whatever actual colour)squirells are WAY easier to work with than the Reds. A red squr. will "scratch your eyeballs out soon as lookatcha." Not that that's a bad thing. ;)

By arachnophile (not verified) on 19 Dec 2007 #permalink

Do you sell the white squirrels? I would love to get a couple of pairs . Babys if possible. Thanks a million. Elaine bootlefarm@lowcountry.com

By Elaine Bootle (not verified) on 04 Jul 2009 #permalink

I would be very interested in buying some white squirrels. Babies or adults. I'll pay good money. Contact me at markandrhonda@sbcglobal.net.

By Mark Robinson (not verified) on 28 Dec 2009 #permalink