Percy and Connie Emert, a couple in central Pennsylvania, found a common creature in an unexpected color in their backyard this week: a purple squirrel.
I came home (one day recently) and my wife said, 'You're not going to believe it, but I saw a purple squirrel in the yard,' Percy Emert told The Associated Press Thursday. So I put out a trap with a couple of peanuts inside.
I kept telling my husband I saw a purple one out in the yard. 'Oh sure you did' he kept telling me, Connie Emert told AccuWeather.com. Well, he checked the trap around noon on Sunday and sure enough, there it was.
The couple were shocked to find the purple squirrel, which Emert claims looked healthy despite its unusual color and brown teeth.
Even the inside of its ears were purple, Emert told the AP. It wasn't like it fell into something. It didn't look like that at all.
A Pennsylvania game state warden came by to take samples of purple fur that the squirrel left behind in his cage, the AP reports. The couple keeps cage-like traps in their backyard to trap squirrels and keep them away from bird feeders. Emert told the AP that he releases the animals away from his home in the woods after he catches them.
The couple released the purple squirrel into the Pennsylvania woods on Tuesday and, within hours, the image of the squirrel went viral. The critter has his own Facebook page and Twitter account, gaining a cult-like following.
However, despite its popularity online, researchers are unsure why the squirrels' fur has become purple.
The purple coloration, from the purple I saw...it looked to me like this animal had come in contact with something with its fur and dyed its fur, Pittsburgh Zoo curator Henry Kacprzyk told the AP. The squirrel could have come in contact with a pokeberry patch, but pokeberries aren't in season.
I've got to think one of the suggestions might be it fell in a Porta John that had blue coloration, he told the AP. I have no idea why ... but I don't think it was born that way.
While there are bright colored birds, Kacpryk told the AP that it usually strange for animals to have a purple tint.
There are definitely birds that have coloration like this ... but not mammals, he said. Mammals don't normally uptake color, ingest something it goes through and (then) it comes out through their fur.
Despite the unnaturalness of a purple squirrel, the Pennsylvania creature is not the first of its kind. According to the Daily Mail, a purple squirrel was spotted in Stubbington, Hampshire in the UK in 2008. At the time, TV wildlife expert Chris Packham believed the squirrel had possibly eaten a purple ink cartridge, which then dyed its fur the strange color.