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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Home of the White Squirrels

In my web wanderings I ended up at the website of the town of Olney, IL. Olney's tagline is "Home of the White Squirrels," because, well, they have a bunch of albino squirrels. This is central to their efforts to market themselves as a tourist destination; the mayor plugs the white squirrels at the beginning of the town's promotional web video, and the town's website provides info on white squirrel history. That page gives an overview of the competing hypotheses on their origin, and also notes that at the White Squirrel Centennial celebration in 2002, "The afternoon was rounded off with a dedication of a white squirrel monument and a blessing of the squirrel in the park."

God bless the white squirrels.

It's not just God looking out for them, though -- the town has laws protecting them. Squirrels have right-of-way on streets, it's illegal to transport them out of town, and free-roaming cats and dogs are prohibited. The town's police officers have white squirrels on their arm patches. (They say: "To serve and protect...squirrels" -- just kidding!) According to this Roadside America article, there are actually competing claims to white squirrel fame. Towns in Tennessee, Missouri, North Carolina and Ontario have all tried to make their name with white squirrels. They have attempted to prove their white squirrel supremacy with claims that they were there first (1869! 1902!), that other towns seeded their populations with kidnapped white squirrels, and that other towns' white squirrels are inferior ("Most of theirs have dark eyes").

Of course, Carleton also has its famous Parish House albino squirrel. I hear they're working on a memorial statue...

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