This is a story about when pigs fly. Well, not really. It’s more similar to a story about real life mythical unicorns. A couple from Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania (not the reality television show filmed in New Jersey) have found a green celebrity of their own. The husband and wife actually trapped a purple squirrel that the wife had seen multiple times but her husband thought she was hallucinating. They caught the furry little lavender guy in their back yard and scientists are trying to figure out where the unusual fur hue came from on the cute little guy. Has the wildlife in the area encountered some sort of toxic sludge that has caused a genetic anomaly or did he simply fall into a vat of ink or dye? Either way, he’s got his own Twitter account now and has become quite the famous little grape juice colored guy.
An environmental anomaly has been discovered in Jersey Shore, PA, according to Fox News. And, no, it’s not the reality television series Jersey Shore. The anomaly is a purple squirrel, and Snooki, squirrely as she can be is (the last we knew) more orange than purple. The purple squirrel, discovered and trapped by Percy and Connie Emert in their yard has been confounding scientists.
Whether the squirrel ate something that affected fur pigment or was exposed to some type of dye, environmentalists are wondering if the squirrel may be suffering from something toxic. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Henry Kacprzyk, a curator at the Pennsylvania Zoo, said the squirrel didn’t look like it was intentionally dyed, but the squirrel did have purple even inside its ears, said the NY Daily News. But Kacprzyk joked that he wouldn’t be surprised if it simply had fallen into a porta potty, which often use a blue or purple liquid deodorizer. [But, ew! I can't help but wonder if that might be a fate worse than exposure to a man-made chemical toxin.]
But with over 3,800 Facebook fans for the purple squirrel, as reported by MSNBC, it might just become the next green celebrity. [Or should that be purple celebrity?] Either way, Pennsylvania Game Commission Warden Harold Cole says the squirrel appears to be at no risk, which is certainly some relief to environmentalists. Cole got a sample of the fur from the purple squirrel and tested it, and no abnormalities were returned, though there still is no clear explanation of why a squirrel would be purple — albino, gray, reddish-brown, but not purple. So far, PETA hasn’t commented.
And it’s unlikely the purple squirrel will return. The pet friendly family who caught and released the squirrel said they keep traps only to prevent the squirrels from competing with the songbirds they feed. It may show up in another Jersey Shore neighborhood, but not likely in their yard.
Other possibilities for the cause of a purple squirrel have included theories that the squirrel may have rubbed against a surface covered with wet paint or dye, or that it might have made a nest with purple material which affected its skin color over time in the nest. Another theory, and more dangerous for the purple squirrel, is it could have ingested something that affected a critical chemical balance in the squirrel’s body.
According to the Christian Science Monitor:
Krish Pillai, a professor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, commented that “This is not good at all. That color looks very much like Tyrian purple. It is a natural organobromide compound seen in molluscs and rarely found in land animals. The squirrel (possibly) has too much bromide in its system.”
But he’s a computer science expert, says NPR. So, chances are the squirrel is just fine — a genetic anomaly that is bound to occur from time to time, if rarely. Besides, this squirrel may have a shot at a bright (ha! ha!) future. In the engineering world, a “purple squirrel” is slang for the perfect (and generally considered impossible) job candidate.
Maybe this squirrel should see about heading to Penn State to study biological engineering.