Rare white squirrel takes up residence in Old Greenwich By Colin GustafsonStaff Writer Article Launched: 10/31/2008 02:52:42 AM EDT
Old Greenwich resident Joe Mozian calls it a harbinger of heavy snowfalls this winter.
His hockey-playing sons, Michael, 10, and Alex, 8, call it a good-luck charm that helps them score goals.
His mother-in-law, Miki Dougherty, just calls it "a little white devil."
For two months, a rare white squirrel has taken up residence amid the hardwood trees and low-lying foliage of Mozian's yard on Marshall Street. Affectionately named the "Polar Squirrel" by Mozian's two sons, the bushy-tailed rodent sports an all-white coat from tip to tail and can be spotted about twice a day, zipping back and forth across the lawn, darting over fences and racing across the tree tops, witnesses said.
"He's definitely more hyper than any other squirrel I've seen," Mozian quipped. "Maybe the other squirrels picked on him because he's different, so now he's a little more wild than the rest."
Wild perhaps, but also a rare find in Greenwich, even in the town's heavily wooded habitats where black and gray breeds of the tree-dwelling rodents abound, said Ted Gilman, a naturalist and education specialist at Audubon Greenwich.
In his nearly 32 years working at the nature center, Gilman said he has seen "partially albino deer" and a white woodpecker, but never a white squirrel. "It's certainly an unusual event."
With its beady black eyes, the Polar Squirrel most likely suffers from "leucism," a rare genetic condition in which the body cannot produce pigment on all or part of its skin and fur, Gilman said. Albinism, by contrast, typically produces red eye color, as opposed to brown or black.
Whether leucistic or albino, however, Mozian said the Polar Squirrel occupies a special place in his heart.
He first encountered his beloved critter while doing yard work in late August, when he spotted a flash of white in the bushes. At first, "I thought it might be a possum or something," he recalled. But "when I realized it was a white squirrel, I started screaming like a lunatic, telling my wife and kids, 'Get out here, get out here! It's a white squirrel!'"
Today, Mozian and his family say they have spotted the squirrel hundreds of times and have snapped nearly a dozen photographs of the elusive creature, climbing up trees or rummaging through the grass for acorns and various nuts.
"To be honest, I used to think they were all pests," Mozian said of the run-of-the-mill, gray-coated rodents that dig up his tulip garden every summer. "But now that we have this white one, I'm fascinated. I want to know everything I can about him."