Illinois March 20, 2018
This Small Town In Illinois Is Home To The Most Unusual Squirrels
There’s a small town in Illinois that is home to an unusually large population of albino squirrels. Residents of this kooky place hold these critters so sacred, it’s a crime to kill one.
How did these squirrels become so sacred? Scroll on to learn the full story of how the town of Olney became known for these fluffy white animals.
Tucked away in the southern-central portion of the state, the town of Olney sits right on the edge of East Fork Lake in Richland County.
It is a small town of just over 8,000 people that was founded in 1841. Residents love living here for the calm and peaceful atmosphere and well as for the nearby lakes, parks, and other natural oases.
The town was even voted one of the 50 best places to live in Illinois in 2016 by RentApplication.com.
Olney's claim to fame is its unusual population of albino squirrels that live in the neighborhoods, parks, and forests around town. Each year, residents volunteer to help count how many of these cute critters still remain in the area.
For three weekends in a row in October, volunteers strategically observe the entire town and report sightings of white, gray, and fox squirrels. This has been going on since 1977 and is accompanied by a community celebration. About 40 volunteers are needed each week during the count.
The amount of squirrels unfortunately seems to dwindle each year. At their height, there were more than 800 albino squirrels in the town in 1941. Residents' best guess is that about 70 are still around today.
That's a ratio of about 12 grey squirrels to every one white squirrel. It is believed that hunters, cats, and other animals are to blame for their endangerment. The town fines anyone to runs one over in the street $750. Olney is not messing around.
The story of how Olney became a haven for white squirrels has two sides, but it is known that these critters eventually went on display at Jasper Banks Saloon before being released into the wild in 1910.
One account says that the squirrels were brought to the saloon after a hunter killed their mother, while another tale states that the white wonders were captured and bread before being handed over to the saloon. Either way, it's how Olney got its mascot.
Next time you find yourself skimming the east side of Illinois, stop into this fun small town and see if you can spot a puff of white. Best viewing times are in the early mornings and evenings.
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If you’ve seen the albino squirrels in Olney, we’d love to hear about it. Share your photos and experiences with us in the comments below!