I first saw it about a year ago: a photo, taken by my sister, of a white squirrel in the snow in a park in Montreal. A blue-eyed white squirrel is rare enough, but with the background of snow to set it off it looked almost surreal. So when I arrive in Montreal for a two-week visit, and she asks me what I want to do here, I immediately answer photograph the white squirrel in the snow.
As it turns out our first outing is to Mount Royal, where there are no white squirrels but plenty of grey/brown ones.
My niece hates the squirrels. She calls them rats with furry tails, but most Montrealers regard then as an icon of the city. People feed them even though it is illegal in some boroughs, and there are bird feeders in the parks so the birds can survive the long winters: the squirrels help themselves. They are fat and happy and they have taken over the city. They make a mess of the garbage, they gnaw the bark of maple trees, they chew through car wiring, and they destroy the summer flowerbeds, but they sure are cute.
We go to Parc La Fontaine. My sister has seen the white squirrel there several times, but there is very little snow on the ground. There had been snow but it’s been warm so most of it has melted.
At first we see only grey/brown squirrels. They are everywhere, racing all over the ground and up and down the trees.
Suddenly we see the white one. Like most of them it comes towards us thinking we might have food, and then it poses nicely for us.
Since we have no food it soon races away up a tree.
I get shots of the grey squirrels in the snow,
but the white squirrel hides in the grass.
Its tail is not as big and bushy as the grey squirrels, and later we see a second white squirrel with an even smaller tail, a really very sad excuse for a squirrel tail and not fluffy at all. Whatever recessive genes produced blue-eyed white squirrels didn’t quite work for the tails.
Walking back towards the car we see this fat happy chap lunching on a potato scavenged no doubt from a nearby restaurant garbage bin.
And speaking of shooting squirrels, squirrel hunting is legal in several other Canadian provinces, but not in Quebec, though in 2017 a University of Montreal student started a petition hoping to make it so. As far as I can tell it was not successful.
Happy holidays everyone. See you next year.
Next post: Back to the splendours of Kyoto.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2018.