Aside from typical issues that include albinism, mange, or skin disorders, from time to time we see colored animals that appear to defy logic. For instance, recently a purple squirrel that has appeared near a British grammar school has been turning heads.

According to the school’s registrar Lorraine Orridge, “We don’t think he is a mutant squirrel but he may have had a mishap around the school. The old building where we have seen him nipping in and out is a bit of a graveyard for computer printers. He may have found some printer toners in there.” Similarly, an English TV wildlife expert named Chris Packham commented that “Squirrels will chew anything even if it’s obviously inedible. It is possible he has been chewing on a purple ink cartridge and then groomed that coloring into his fur.” Packham believes the squirrel will likely lose the purple coat in time for spring of ’09.

Further speculation, ranging outside the likely mishap with an ink cartridge, has led to suggestions that the color might be the result of two unique species of squirrels interbreeding, but this would be difficult to prove without capturing the animal first. To view a photo of “Pete” as he has been dubbed, click here. The Telegraph also features an excellent photo of Pete in their article from yesterday.

Whatever the cause of the purple coat, Pete reminds me very much of an offbeat news story from back in 2003, in which Pelusa, a polar bear at a zoo in Argentina, turned purple after being administered medication for dermatitis.

However, Purple isn’t the only color to which animals appear take an unexpected adaption. Take for instance Brumas, a British cat whose owners say went for his usual walk somewhere around his Bratton Clovelly home. Upon returning, the cat’s fur from his head and ears, right down the upper portions of his body, had inexplicably changed to a bright, “Barbie pink”. Mr and Mrs Worth, Brumas’ owners, carried the feline to the vet with haste, but the doctor who administered to the animal could find no signs of health issues, nor any any cause for the odd color. “We went to the vet on Saturday, but they couldn’t find any reason for it,” Mrs Worth described, “although they decided it wasn’t toxic, which was what I was worried about.” “We have thought about everything as to how this happened,” added her husband, “from him being covered in some form of cow treatment to children’s poster paints. We have no clue where he was that could have caused this to happen.”

What kinds of factors could lead to sudden changes in the color of animal fur, other than medication for skin conditions? Also, if there is a natural explanation, why such odd colors, like pink or purple?

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Micah Hanks

Author: Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, researcher, and podcaster. His interests include areas of history, science, archaeology, philosophy, and the study of anomalous phenomena in nature. He can be reached at info@micahhanks.com.