The unexpected flash of white appeared at the periphery of my vision and then disappeared quickly into the dense greenery of trees and plants framing the path forward.
This was the first clue that I had stumbled across something special.
I walk the Santa Fe Trail in East Dallas almost daily, but I have only spotted the elusive white-tailed squirrel a few times.
It has been more than a year since a sighting and I wonder: Did she or he move? Did his or her white tail make an easy target for a predator? Or am I not looking closely enough?
Each rare sighting occurred in a wooded section of the path hugging the Lakewood Country Club, close to Lindsley Park. I took these photos in September and May of 2018.
Perhaps the squirrel thought this was wooded area was the best hiding spot? Nevertheless, that distinctive white tail served as a flag amidst the greenery and trees.
Other squirrels blend in with the bark, but not this little guy.
Still, like most squirrels he seemed pretty fearless and did not hesitate to size me up from his perch.
Indeed, his bushy white tail reminded me of a cotton ball, or a feather duster.
I am not the first person to become intrigued by a white-tailed squirrel. A quick search shows such distinctive creatures making headlines all over the country, wherever they appear.
A white-tailed squirrel at the University of Houston became so beloved and revered as a good luck charm that local media reported on the squirrel’s death. Student Odalis Garcia told Click 2 Houston, ““Legend has it that if you saw the squirrel on your test day, you would get an ‘A.'”
The Houston Chronicle reported that after the white-tailed squirrel’s death, a memorial with tributes appeared under an ash tree on the university campus. “It really says something that right after he died, 50 people shared pictures and videos they had of him,” student and resident adviser Robert Comer said. “I once had a resident come to me and tell me he had a great weekend because he saw the White-Tailed Squirrel.”
When white-tailed squirrels popped up in Osage, Iowa, in 2012 they made headlines. The Globe Gazette reported that an Iowa Department of Natural Resources biologist said the white tail is relatively rare and likely comes from a recessive trait that occasionally appears in a genetic line and can be passed on by the mother. The trait is more common in gray squirrels.
M Live reported that similar sightings in 2014 in Wayland, Michigan, drew interest and Michigan State University zoology specialist James Harding offered some explanation of white-tailed squirrels, suggesting that while white tails may make such squirrels vulnerable to predators, they may be safer in cities.
“Because inheritance of color involves many genes, and can be modified by environmental factors, it is more common to see these partially odd-colored variations,” Harding said. “Presumably, these types of anomalies would be more common in suburban and urban areas, where inbreeding can occur, due to partial isolation of populations hemmed in by roads and other human activities.”
I will continue to scan the trees during my walks, hoping to spot a distinctive and elusive white-tailed squirrel one more time. But for now, I at least have the memories (and some photos).
- “UH ‘unusual’ campus legend, white-tailed squirrel, dies,” Click 2 Houston
- “Unusual white-tailed squirrels spotted in Ann Arbor,” M Live
- “Unique white-tailed squirrels the talk of Osage,” Globe Gazette