OLMSTED TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WJW) — Sightings of a “rare” white or black squirrel are becoming more and more common. But in Northeast Ohio, an even more unusual variant was spotted.
The picture of a black squirrel with a white-tipped tail was shared by Olmsted Township resident Larry Pecsok. A Google search reveals that people captivated by the unique combination of black and white have cleverly dubbed the animals “squnks.”
Although not a technical term, it describes the unusually-colored squirrel pretty well. It’s not possible for genetically dissimilar skunks and squirrels to breed, but many still call the critters squnks when they’re spotted.
Based on research, the squnk is likely descended from the pairing of an eastern gray squirrel and a fox squirrel. As Smithsonian Magazine explains, these “black” squirrels have gene variants passed from fox to gray that make them darker.
These varieties of eastern gray squirrels can be seen in Canada and many parts of the northern and midwest U.S. Famously, back in 1961, 10 black squirrels were captured in Canada and then released on the Kent State University campus. Today, the animals are considered the school’s unofficial mascot, with events named after them.
Despite how mundane their explanation may be, black squirrels are pretty rare. Kent State reported in 2011 that there are likely only about one black squirrel for every 10,000 squirrels in North America. If you see one, snap a picture!