December 18th, 2008

Leafy Seadragon

Albino Raccoon in Florida

A rare chalk-white raccoon prowls the woods of Rockledge, resembling a small arctic fox with its snowy pelt.

The pale-furred mutant likes to munch on grapes and cat food, said a woman who feeds and photographs the elusive animal.

Fearful for the albino creature's safety, the woman asked Brevard Zoo officials to trap it and put it on public display. She asked FLORIDA TODAY to withhold her identity so hunters would not converge on the raccoon's territory.

"I'd hate to see him get shot as a trophy," she said. "This is something kids would love to see. He is so unique."

Michelle Smurl, Brevard Zoo's director of animal programs, said the zoo is not at liberty to trap an adult animal that is thriving in the wild. She viewed photos of the animal and confirmed that it is a white raccoon.

"The raccoon looks healthy, and it looks like it's doing well," Smurl said. "I grew up with white squirrels up in New York, and I was worried that someone was going to shoot them."

Raccoons are common across the state and live "everywhere there are trees," according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Web site. These omnivores are about the size of a small dog and are identifiable by "black mask" facial features and bushy ringed tails.

But according to a KFOR-TV report of an Oklahoma white raccoon sighting, only one in 750,000 albino raccoons will survive to adulthood.

Earlier this month, a ghostly white raccoon startled an Illinois man during a backyard barbecue, Prairie State Outdoors reported.

Two ivory-colored raccoons were trapped earlier this year in Tennessee, leading a Memphis Commercial Appeal outdoors columnist to proclaim, "You have a better chance of being struck by a bolt from Mother Nature than seeing an albino raccoon."

Smurl said humans should not feed raccoons because they are wild animals.