OLNEY, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s something that attracts visitors from near and far. They have four legs, a bushy tail and they are white. They are the white squirrels of Olney.
Their numbers are dwindling. But citizens are doing their best to protect these unique animals.
“People come from all over to see our squirrels and we’re so fortunate to have them here, says Karen Bell, owner of the White Squirrel Shop.
The local expert on white squirrels is Belinda Hinton, the squirrel lady. Her home feature a southern Illinois white squirrel decor. Belinda’s been helping injured or lost .albino eastern gray tree squirrels, otherwise known as white squirrels for years. She’s even certified by the state of Illinois as a Wildlife Rehabilitator.
No one knows exactly why the white squirrels.are in Olney, but for decades the town has tried to protect them. There’s even an ordinance that cats must be licensed and on a leash. You see cats, hawks and coyotes are a danger to the squirrels.
“It’s just an effort between the city and animal control to trying to get that problem fixed, says Kelsie Sterchi, city clerk.
The squirrels also need trees. But through the years there are fewer trees in the town. However, there’s an effort to distribute squirrel houses.
Even with all the attention there are fewer white squirrels. Years ago one in every three squirrels was white, now that number is one in 12. They know this because every October the town does a squirrel count where volunteers pan out around the town early in the morning looking for the sometimes elusive animals