What is the deal with this purple squirrel?

The hard-hitting investigative journalism team at Accuweather is trying to figure out why this squirrel is purple. Currently, there is "No Explanation for Pennsylvania's Purple Squirrel." What do you think? Suggestions in the comments, please. (via @ProducerMatthew)



  1. I’d say he’s one of the Joker’s Minions. You might want to run away as he should be exploding in a cloud of toxic laughing gas any moment now. 

  2. When I evicted a bunch of squirrels from my attic, and relocated them several miles away, I pondered marking them somehow to know if they somehow made the trip home. I didn’t, but maybe someone else did?

    1. At one point while I was growing up, my parents were catching mice in the house like crazy. Mom didn’t believe in killing them, and was using a have-a-heart trap. She’d find one in the trap in the morning, take it well away from the house (we had a bit of land), and release the mouse.

      As this went on, she grew incredulous that we could possibly have so many mice in the house with so little evidence of their presence. So one day, before releasing the mouse, she took a green sharpie marker, stuck it through the bars of the trap, and drew a dot right on the white of its belly.

      The next day, there was a mouse in the trap, and it had a green dot on its belly. To cut a story short, it turns out that every single mouse we caught was that same one. Eventually, my parents found a small gap in the foundation, sealed it, and the problem went away entirely.

      1. Did the mouse have a machine for making chocolate biscuits?

        My parents did the same thing until they forgot about the trap. They found a somewhat decomposed mouse a few months later when they remembered about it.

      2. I once heard that you need to release the mouse at least 2 miles away from your house to actually stop it coming back.

        Not sure how accurate that is, but it tells me that they’re pretty good at navigation.

        Even Snails have this ability, I’m told that if you throw one as fr as you can it will be back in your garden the next day – if it survived the landing of course.

  3. I once lived next door to a man who liked to trap squirrels in his back yard, paint their tails bright orange, and release them in parks around town. They almost always came back. Perhaps this is a similar scheme?

    1. Yeah, while it’s not humane it’s an uncommon practice for some trappers.  I’ve read of one exterminator that did this to about 50 squirrels and experimented with the distance he’d have to drive them in order to get them so lost that they’d never return.  In his opinion you’d have to drive them at least 20 miles away and even then they would probably starve to death as they tried to establish their own territory because basically America is totally covered by squirrels who already own a territory.  He recommended drowning them instead.  

      I think it just makes sense to plug up any holes that squirrels can use to get into your house and leave the buggers alone.  But then again, my squirrels have never bothered my garden, probably due to the presence of my dogs.

        1. YES.

          We never had a bird feeder at my childhood home. Our neighborhood had gangs of big aggressive squirrels who would destroy your garden, digging up even tulip bulbs (those are burried deep!) chew their way into your attic, and then infest the wall cavities.

          I hate squirrels so much they make atheist me yell “God, I hate squirrels”. Which is saying something.

          They’re like rats, only they invade your house from the top down instead of the bottom up. Aarrg.

          1. Maybe it’s a local thing. I’ve lived in squirrel zones for my whole life and never had a problem. Raccoons, on the other hand….

        2. Yeah.  We don’t have bird feeders, but we have squirrels in our attic.  I just haven’t gotten around to dealing with them, but they’ve gnawed through the porchlight wiring and caused other minor havoc.  Honestly, though, I’d much rather have squirrels than roaches, ants, raccoons, wasps, mice, rats, opossums, skunks, or cats.  And at one time or another, I’ve had all of those.

        3. Squirrels aren’t quite as aggressive as rats, but they’re not far behind either. They mob people if they expect handouts and don’t get them, and they’ll mob housepets too. I’ve seen a large mob of squirrels (all nesting in a small cluster of trees) take on a raccoon successfully – swarming over to the tree the raccoon was in and sending it falling right off the branch and running away.

          A mob of angry squirrels this mass cheeping sound; it sounds sort of like a flock of starlings. If you hear it, it’s a good time to get some distance from them – they don’t chase.

        4. hell, yes.  we had some in our attic.  little buggers chewed through our wiring, destroyed our insulation, and buckled the soffit on a huge chunk of the underside of our roof.  they made their way into the walls and caused for weeks of sleeplessness. 

          they also drove our poor dog mad.  though she was a fair ways towards that before they moved in.

        5.  I hand-feed raccoons and possums on the back porch of my house.  We had a family of raccoons move into the attic one year; I ended up live-trapping them and hauling them to a large wilderness area about 20 miles away, because they insisted on trying to get back into the attic.  I fed squirrels when I lived in town, too, but out here in the sticks we don’t see many of them yet.  Too few trees and too many natural predators for the poor buggers, I assume.  Basically I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like.  :-)

        6.  Yes. I broke down on the motorway once, only to find the fuel injector runoff pipe had been eaten by squirrels. My brother had squirrels try to fill his fuel tank with nuts for the winter. They can be very destructive creatures.

      1. Agreed; the only effective way to stop or prevent any rodent problem is to prevent them getting in your house.   Killing individual pests isn’t likely to get you very far.  Poison could kill other wildlife or even pets, and traps tend to just maim an animal that’s trying to find somewhere warm to sleep.

        Seems kind of sadistic to not bother preventing an animal entering your home and then killing it when it does.

        Although I’ve had mouse problems in the past and they do cause a crazed reaction not too dissimilar to that seen in ‘Mousehunt’.  And I love mice.

  4. People are similarly baffled by my purple T-shirt.  I tell them that I fed its parents nothing but bluejays.

      1. In college mammology class there was an ongoing project to monitor the activities of squirrels on campus.  Some were ear-tagged, but you couldn’t read an ear tag from a distance, and even the lighter tags tended to make their ears flop in a comic, though disconcerting, way when bounding.

        Eventually someone hit on the idea of applying black hair dye to small patches of fur as a means to differentiate the creatures.  The squirrels didn’t seem adversely affected or to mind (at least any more than they minded being caught and handled by humans at all).  But it did lead to some puzzlement from the non-bio-majors as to what was up with the weird looking squirrels running around.

    1. That’s how they colored the “Horse of a different color” in “Wizard of Oz.” You can see one of the horses try to lick himself in the movie.

  5. How come nobody has done a Pixar “SQUIRREL” meme? And, from OZ, I can confirm that we do not have purple squirrels, therefore this one clearly IS our purple squirrel, escaped.

    Give him back. Him? how do you know a purple squirrel is male? Look for the tiny purple balls…

  6. This is what the squirrel gets for trying to rob a bank!    Sorry, Nibbles, the dye packet is not an extra snack that the bank so kindly left in your bag when you held up the register….

  7. It looks like the same colour as when I got meat-marking dye on my hand once.  It’s possible he was salvaging around a slaughter house or meat-packing plant and tried to get something out of the dye.  It took me 5 days to wash the stuff off.

    1. I second that, or at least one-and-a-half it.  There was a similar case here in the UK about two years ago, and the toner cartridge theory was the expert opinion that the paper touted at the time. 

      Of my own knowledge, I have no idea.  But on the basis that the story was too weird for a dumb UK paper to make up, this is certainly purple squirrel #2.

  8. Chemical toilet (aka port-a-potty) with the blue dye?  I’d put money that either the squirrel accidentally fell in one, was tossed into one, or the contents of one was dumped on the squirrel.

  9. Come on you guys. CLEARLY he’s a wee hypochondriac and has chugged the colliodal silver one time too many.

    1.  That makes no sense. Expecting bromide to magically form a complex purple dye is like trying to make a computer by putting a hard drive in a cardboard box and shaking it, the other parts just aren’t there and you haven’t applied the proper tools!
      Tyrian purple is dibromoindigo. The other part in this case is the dye indigo (which makes blue jeans blue btw) or some precursor to it and some sort of enzyme from a Mediterranean sea snail. Squirrels don’t have these things.

      1. Indigo and Murex (traditional tyrian purple) dye are 2 separate dyes. Indigo is a plant. Murex is the snail. Not sure what enzyme you’re thinking of, unless it’s a mordant to fix the dye.  I did find a reference to  an indigo (colored) dye that was used in ancient times that also came from sea snails, but that isn’t tyrian purple.

        But yeah, I don’t buy the ingestion story unless the bromide being ingested was already a complex organic compound (e.g., used for dying the fracking solution-which is unlikely as the last thing a fracking company wants is tangible evidence that they are contaminating water supplies.

        1.  Yes they are different dyes, the difference is that main chemical component of murex has two bromine atoms attached to it. The snail has to install them on a fairly early precursor to get them in the right spot, probably using some sort of specialized enzyme to do the trick. It is very unlikely that anything could put them in the right spot starting with actual indigo. I probably should have found a more eloquent way to express my point, which is essentially the same as yours.

  10. Where I live, the local squirrels come in a surprising range of colors. In addition to the basic gray, we’ve had melanistic specimens for a while (hey, it’s New York, everyone wears black) but lately I’ve seen squirrels in colors ranging from blond through chestnut to rich auburn. See: http://blog.raingod.com/post/6220815029/dyed-squirrels

    I haven’t seen any purple ones yet, but I understand that the Swiss have observed a possibly-related phenomenon: https://www.google.com/search?q=milka+cow&tbm=isch

  11. 1. Find a squirrel.
    2. Find strangest color hair dye you can get.
    3. Put the dyed squirrel in a trap for an avid blogger to find.
    4. ?
    5. Profit.

  12. When I was a kid in the boy scouts and my dad was in the air force, we dyed some nylon parachutes to make them look like indian teepees.  One day, my hamster got loose and couldn’t be found for a couple of days.  I heard a small scratching sound in the basement and discovered the little critter in a very large pickle jar that still had some of the purple dye in it.  Don’t know why he was attracted to it,  but there he was, stuck in the gallon sized glass jar.  All purple when we pulled him out.  Of course that was before the days when you could photoshop anything to be purple.

  13. If it isn’t due to contaminants/pollution (like the toner cartridge and bromide mentioned above) its likely just a melanistic squirrel. There are a number of photos rolling around where the squirrel looks to be mostly black with a purple tint. Melanism or pseudo-melanism can create purplish critters. Black squirrels are hugely common in NYC and I’ve heard they’ve started to supplant regular squirrels in parts of Upstate New York, Long Island, and Northern PA. 

    1.  There’s a well-known enclave of black squirrels in Niagara Falls State Park. You’re almost guaranteed to see one if you go there – I grew up nearby. I can’t recall having seen one elsewhere in WNY, though there are tons of squirrels around the rest of the area.

      I’m not sure what dynamics are at play, but I can’t think of a reason why the black squirrels would displace “normal” squirrels other than perhaps being better camouflaged – but I think the grey is better camouflage, especially in winter.

  14. The squirrel is NOT purple… your drugs are bad! “don’t take the electric windowpane! ..don’t take the electric windowpane!”

  15. From my thorough forensic analysis, this is most definitely a case of Purple overdose. Now let me go back to my Glitch game.

  16. This is an indigo squirrel. An indigo squirrel is  a squirrel who has an older more enlightened soul. They have come to this earth to be a beacon to all squirrels as the world undergoes many changes ending in the total global transformation. Indigo squirrels can perceive truths that would be hidden to other squirrels. They resist arbitrary authority and they do not suffer the shame felt by other squirrels who are unsure of their inner nature and its truth. They are more curious and creative than other squirrels and they display a strong entitlement to explore this world they have been born into. They may act strangely and it can sometimes be hard to understand what purpose they are serve with their strong will. But one can be sure they bear great wisdom.

  17. It looks like Susan in Human Resources is finally going to have to hire us that new engineer we’ve been begging for…

  18. looks like the same colour as the medical dye the upper-year engineers use to dye themselves purple during frosh  week at Queen’s. No idea how the squirrel managed to do it, but perhaps related?

  19. some places in PA (and OH, IL, and Ontario) have white squirrels, which are easier to dye purple. rit dye black is a deep purple like toner.

  20. This is literally from the town I grew up in. I live 20 minutes up the road, and now its on Boing Boing. Life is complete. Also, knowing the redneck cesspool that this occurred in I assume its a cruel prank or some horrible chemical being dumped by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. 

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