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Pennsylvania’s purple squirrel a rainbow-colored riddle

Purple_Squirrel_Accuweather.jpg

Accuweather.com

A bright purple squirrel trapped by a Pennsylvania couple has experts offering all sorts of theories -- but no concrete answers.

Percy and Connie Emert from Jersey Shore, Pa., trapped the brightly colored creature while trying to keep the birds safe in their backyard feeder, reported Accuweather.com. They told the weather service they had no explanation for the rodent’s deep purple color.

"We have no idea whatsoever. It's really purple. People think we dyed it, but honestly, we just found it and it was purple," the Emerts told Accuweather.

Experts queried by Accuweather had several theories for the unusual look, but no hard answers. Indeed, Krish Pillai, a professor at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, told Accuweather he thought the coloring was dangerous for the animal.

I’ve got to think one of the suggestions might be it fell in a Porta John that had blue coloration.

- Henry Kacprzyk, Pittsburgh Zoo curator

"This is not good at all. That color looks very much like Tyrian purple. It is a natural organobromide compound seen in molluscs and rarely found in land animals. The squirrel (possibly) has too much bromide in its system," he said.

Some AccuWeather.com meteorologists had their own theories. Expert Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity thought it was merely an accident.

"The squirrel could have been looking for somewhere warm and fallen into a port-a-potty or something similar," he said,

Henry Kacprzyk, a curator at the Pittsburgh Zoo, said Thursday he thought it looked like a gray squirrel tinged in purple, after looking at a picture of the critter on an iPhone.

He knows of albino squirrels. Black squirrels. Gray squirrels. Reddish squirrels.

“But 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,” Kacprzyk said. The squirrel could have come in contact with a pokeberry patch, but pokeberries aren’t in season.

And strange as it sounds, he thought Margusity’s toilet theory might hold water.

“I’ve got to think one of the suggestions might be it fell in a Porta John that had blue coloration,” he said with a chuckle. “I have no idea why … but I don’t think it was born that way.”

When asked about the suggestions by some people in online forums of the potential impact of fracking fluid, Kacprzyk said the composition of such fluids in Pennsylvania wasn’t known. “My guess there is if you don’t know something, is that there’s no scientific proof to that. … I would find it amazing that it had that kind of effect,” he said.

In general, purple is an unusual color for mammals, let alone squirrels.

“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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.