Cryptozoology, BioForteana, Zoological Oddities, Unusual Natural History

BioFortean Review, (December 2010, No. 26)

Albino Ringtails

Chad Arment

While working on Varmints: Mystery Carnivores of North America, I included published accounts of color mutations for carnivore species wherever I could find them. For some species, there don't appear to be recorded variants, or at least not readily accessible descriptions. For example, there do not appear to be any published records of albinism in the ringtail, Bassariscus astutus, in the scientific literature. (Color variants of the related raccoon, of course, are well known.)

So, I was a bit surprised to recently run across a taxidermy specimen of an albinistic ringtail in a small wildlife museum in Tyler, Texas. Oddly, the museum display doesn't mention that the specimen is albino. It also didn't include any details on where the specimen was acquired, geographically. This specimen is located at the Brookshire's World of Wildlife Museum and Country Store, Tyler, Texas. It was donated to the museum by Wade's Taxidermy, of Whitehouse, Texas.

Note, of course, that the color of the glass eye is not indicative of the animal's natural state. Its original eye color would lack melanin. Because of the reddish tints, some might consider this incomplete albinism. However, in viewing images of albino raccoons, those range from snow white without any apparent markings to very pale with reddish tinting (similar to this specimen). So, given that different mutations may be responsible for albinism within the same species, some phenotypic variation is to be expected.

While rechecking for accounts of albinism in this species, I ran across photos of a second specimen. Again, the background details are missing (and I have not, so far, been able to get a response from the Georgia taxidermist who posted the photos), but the images can be viewed here. This animal was white with yellow highlights.

So, we can now add a color mutation to the life history notes on a sometimes-overlooked North American carnivorous mammal. I would, of course, be interested in learning about any further published notes on color variations in this species.



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