There is apparently a purple-coloured squirrel running around Jersey Shore in the U.S. The only problem is... no one knows how this mysterious creature got its peculiar pigment.
Experts seem confident in attributing the strange color to nature's eccentricity.
"It's not typical, but it's not impossible," said Harold Cole, a warden with the Pennsylvania Game Commission who investigated the case.
The animal in question was apparently caught by one Percy Emert, a resident of central Pennsylvania, who said his wife and he lured the squirrel with the help of peanuts.
"At first I thought somebody around here was playing tricks," he said. Apparently, the family posted photographs of the animal in its cage on Facebook. The animal was then reportedly set free on Tuesday.
The pigmentation of the animal was cause for much debate, particularly after photographs appeared on AccuWeather's website. The purpl-coloured squirrel even has its own Facebook page, with 3,800 fans.
Animal welfare organizations might well be proud of the mystery animal's potential influence on the social network.
After the animal was released, trace fur samples and tail trimmings were handed over to Cole, an animal expert, who insisted they could be valuable assets for lab analysis.
"The squirrel looks healthy in the picture there, except that he doesn't want to be in that cage," he said, hinting that it didn't pose any threat and appeared to be alright. Cole came to the conclusion that it was unlikely the Emerts dyed the animal, although it was possible that someone had colored it as a mark of identity to help tracking it.
"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.
In a Daily Mail report, Krish Pillai, a professor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, had a more sinister explanation for the colour of the squirrel's coat.
Pointing out the animal seemed to be coloured "Tyrian purple", an organobromine compound usually found in molluscs, he said the situation was "not good at all" and suggested that the squirrel had "too much bromide in its system".
According to Cole's analysis, the squirrel might have ingested something or eaten local pokeberries that lent a purple tinge to its fur or may have been exposed to some industrial compound or consumed food containing purple pigment. He further cited the example of flamingos, which got their colour (pink or orange) from the food they eat.
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