Iowans Seeing Rare, White-Tailed Squirrels

Nov 19, 2012

Experts say the white-tailed squirrels being seen in Iowa are likely a result of a genetic mutation which could become more prevalent or disappear.
Credit Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

We’re all too familiar with whitetail deer. But there also have been a few recent sightings in Iowa of rare white-tailed squirrels.

The rodent with the bushy, snow-white tail is snow white. It’s been seen in the Witmer Park area near Drake University. Earlier this year, several were spotted in the town of Osage.

Vince Evelsizer is a biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He says it’s probably a rare, genetic trait that has emerged naturally. 

“I am not sure what’s causing it to show up right now," he says. "I would guess it’s not weather but I’m not sure.

"I would guess it’s something that has just emerged in one or two squirrels and maybe those bred with some other squirrels and got a few of them to have it show up in them."

Evelsizer says the white-tailed trait may stick around and become more common, or it could fade from the squirrel population.

He says he's never seen a white-tail squirrel himself, but anyone who does should consider themselves lucky.

Listeners Patty and Jary Ernberger sent in this picture of a white-tail squirrel, just outside of their home in Cedar Rapids.
Credit Patty Ernberger