OLMSTED TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WJW) — Some of the most often-spotted “rare” animals seen around Northeast Ohio are white or albino variations but recently 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 we are certain that is not a technical term, it does describe the unusually-colored squirrel pretty well.
While it’s technically impossible for skunks and squirrels to breed since they are genetically so dissimilar (here’s an easy explainer on how animal hybrids work), it hasn’t stopped many online throughout the years from spotting creatures like the “squnk” seen above.
Based on research, however, it’s more likely the “squnk” seen here is actually an eastern gray squirrel that descends from a gray squirrel-fox squirrel breeding. As Smithsonian Magazine explains, these “black” squirrels actually just have gene variants that make them darker due to the gene variant passed from fox to gray.
These varieties of eastern gray squirrels can be seen in Canada as well as many parts of the northern and midwest U.S., including Ohio. Famously, back in 1961, 10 black squirrels were captured in Canada and then released on the Kent State University campus. The animals are even 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 1 black squirrel for every 10,000 squirrels in North America. So if you see one — snap a picture!