If there’s one thing the citizens of Olney, Illinois are proud of, it’s their unique population of white squirrels.
While no one is certain of exactly how the squirrels arrived in Olney, a small number of them were displayed at the Jasper Banks Saloon until they were released in 1910. One account says that they were brought to the saloon after a hunter killed their mother, leaving the tiny powder puffs defenseless. The hunter’s sons then raised the orphaned animals before turning them over to the saloon owner. Another version of the story says that a duo of local hunters found a couple of the little white scamps playing on their land and had to devise a special box trap to capture them, before breeding them and eventually giving a couple to the Jasper Banks Saloon. Whichever story is the case, it is generally agreed that the squirrels originated in the saloon.
From there the population of the squirrels boomed and they were soon made to be the mascot for the town. Their little heads were used in the town’s logo, gracing public works and police cars.
Even today, Olney residents are so protective of their squirrels that there are laws to keep them safe - perhaps a matter of increasing importance, as the population has decreased from 1000 in 1943 to around 200 today. White squirrels have the right of way on all public streets, and if one were to be run over, a fine of $750 would result for the driver.