Shane Vidrine was just happy to be in the woods again hunting squirrels Sunday morning, the second day of Louisiana’s season.
The 46-year-old from Vidrine departed early from his camp to meet a group of friends and family in a section of hardwoods on the Richard K. Yancey Wildlife Management Area in Concordia Parish. But when he arrived, he realized he didn’t have his cellphone — so he traveled the 4 miles back to his camp to get it.
As a result, he decided to hunt another section of woods — and boy, was he was lucky he did.
“I was on the north end of the area hunting in a bottomland swamp,” Vidrine said. “There were cypresses, oaks, hackberry and clumps of those seeds on sumac vines that squirrels love to eat in the fall.”
As soon as he stepped into the woods, Vidrine scored on a gray (cat) squirrel in an oak tree with his Browning 12-gauge shotgun.
“As I was picking up the squirrel to place in my vest, I saw another squirrel – a fox squirrel – and I shot him too,” he said.
Later, after missing a squirrel that was eating some sumac seeds, Vidrine walked another 50 yards and encountered something he had never seen before in his 34 years of squirrel hunting.
“I saw a huge, white-colored squirrel eating in an oak tree,” he said. “As I turned to shoot, I could easily see his whole white body set against a backdrop of leaves in the tree.
“It stuck out like a sore thumb.”
The hunter shot, and the squirrel landed with an audible thud on the forest floor.
“I picked him up and just looked at him and observed the squirrel,” Vidrine said. “I knew immediately it was a fox squirrel, and it had pink eyes, too.”
The hunter walked a few more yards into the bottom, but just had to stop again to look at the white fox squirrel in his vest.
“I thought to myself that even if I didn’t shoot another squirrel that morning, I had an awesome hunt,” he said.
His immediate plan was to send the squirrel to a taxidermist, and save it from the squirrel gravy he and his family enjoy. Vidrine eventually reached his limit Sunday by scoring on a mixture of gray and fox squirrels – including a black fox squirrel.
“I have a camp near there and have hunted the area for years,” he said. “I have also hunted other wildlife management areas and have been to plenty wildlife shows, but have never ever seen a white fox squirrel.
“I have taken many black fox squirrels in the past.”
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist manager Tony Vidrine sent pictures of Vidrine’s squirrels to state wildlife veterinarian Dr. Jim LaCour for identification.
In an email, LaCour said the animal appeared to be an albino fox squirrel based on the photos he reviewed, but noted he would have to examine the rodent personally to be 100-percent sure.
“According to the literature, although rare, albinism is more common in cat squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) than in fox squirrels (Sciurus niger),” LaCour wrote. “Cat squirrels also have a ‘blond phase’ which is differentiated from a true albino by a slight yellow color to the hair and dark eyes.”
He further explained, “Albinism results form a genetic recessive trait and is very uncommon. It is rarely described in fox squirrels. This is likely due to a combination of rare occurrence, combined with a high predation rate by raptors and other predators because of the lack of camouflage which reduces the chances of one of these animals making it to adulthood.
“Melanistic or dark/black fox squirrels is a color phase which varies in occurrence across the state. Some areas are nearly lacking in black fox squirrels, whereas others have the melanistic phase as the predominant color for that area.
“That squirrel is certainly a trophy,” he added.
While avid Bayou State bushy-tail hunters are aware of albino gray squirrels that wind up in hunters’ bags every few seasons, albino fox squirrels appear to be much more rare.
It’s definitely one time Shane Vidrine was very lucky to forget his cellphone at the camp.