His name is Snow and he’s not a rat, hamster or guinea pig.
He’s a rare albino Richardson’s Ground Squirrel, or more commonly known as a gopher.
“No one believed, not a single person believed until they actually saw him with their own eyes,” said Austin Kary, the man who found the albino gopher at a work site near Coaldale.
Wildlife Biologist Shane Roersma with Lethbridge College said the white rodent is a rare find.
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“It’s definitely an albino gopher. You can tell by the fact that any exposed skin is pink and the eyes are red, so it’s a lack of pigment all together.”
Kary said when he found Snow all the other gophers were picking on him.
“He would be in the middle and two gophers would come running at him from different angles.”
“It was kind of interesting watching him defend himself.”
Seeing a gopher in southern Alberta can be very common, but Roersma said only a few people will ever see one this unique.
“Albinism is more rare than people might think, some biologists estimate maybe one in 10,000 births, but probably even more rare to see it than that because the chances of an albino individual surviving are quite low, little bit more conspicuous in the environment, higher rates of predation.”
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Roersma added there is a good chance more than one albino baby was in the same litter as Snow.
“The gene that prevents melanin from actually being produced – which is the true natural colour – it’s a recessive gene so both parents have to have that recessive gene and would produce some offspring.”
Snow is proving to be quite clever. Kary said he figured out his cage in no time.
“He pokes his nose out and gets the top locks off, so he can get out the top.”
Kary will be releasing the little guy back into the area where he found him, hoping others can enjoy his unique appearance.