Famous albino squirrels have quite an odd tail
People say they’ve been in Oberlin since the 70s, but it hasn’t been until that last few years that they’ve quietly gained an almost rock star status. Stores around town are selling T-shirts, postcards, and even plush versions of them; they even have a drink named after them.
They’re the white squirrels of Oberlin, commonly seen on Tappan Square frolicking by themselves or with their gray counterparts.
“I think they’re adorable,” said Alexis Gee, a student at Oberlin College. “I think they’re funny and really social animals, which is really nice.”
Oberlin certainly isn’t the only place to have a population of white squirrels. There are, in fact, at least five communities across North America that claim to be the “Home of the White Squirrels.”
The squirrels are serious business in these towns, some of which display them proudly on their police uniforms, have parades, and have laws against trapping and selling, and even give the squirrels the right of way on streets.
Marionville, Mo. goes even further with their reverence for the snowy rodents. When one of the white squirrels in the town meets its demise, the more intact ones are put on ice and sent to a taxidermist to be stuffed and put on display.
This has even led to what some have termed the “squirrel wars.”
Residents of Marionville claim that Olney, Ill. kidnapped some of the white squirrels from their town years ago which is the only reason they can claim to have them.
In comparison to these other communities, Oberlin’s boasting of white squirrels seems rather subdued. Lorraine Morrison, owner of Carlyle Gift and Flower Shop, thinks she knows why this is the case.
“I don’t think we have enough,” she said. “I think these other towns have dozens. We have, I think, six, but I don’t know for sure. I’ve lost count.”
Morrison said she and others in the community do communicate with the other towns that have white squirrels because they all have to stick together.
No one is quite sure just how many white squirrels live in Oberlin these days. Depending on who you ask, the number can range from three to six of the furry phenoms.
Ma’ayan Plaut, a graduate of Oberlin College who now works as the college’s social media coordinator said she has seen as many as five at the same time.
Most people associate the squirrels with Tappan Square, but many are now reporting them in other places around town, leading many to think the population is slowly growing.
While the city may not be overly vocal about their rare treasure, the white squirrels are being embraced by students at the college, as well as by Oberlin College itself.
Morrison said that many of the recreation sports teams at the college have adopted the white squirrels as their team mascot. A search for Oberlin on Twitter will bring up numerous users who have a picture of one of the squirrels as their avatar.
Oberlin College now displays the white squirrel on their website. Clicking on the picture takes the user to the environmental sustainability page where a squirrel helps monitor the energy consumption for the college’s many buildings across campus.
The admissions department has even started using the white squirrel in their correspondence with prospective students.
For now, though, it seems the white squirrels will remain Oberlin’s little secret. Gee thinks this is just fine.
“I really like how quiet it is, because it’s a thing that almost feels solely for the town. To parade them around, like some of the other towns do, is kind of strange,” she said.
For more information on Oberlin's white squirrels, be sure to pick up the May 17 issue of the Oberlin News-Tribune. Inside are articles about the debate on whether or not the squirrels are truly albinos, as well as a story about Albus the Squirrel, who is quickly gaining popularity around town.