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Purple squirrel spotted in Pennsylvania. Did it fall into a portable toilet?

Purple squirrel: A couple in Jersey Shore, Pa., spotted a squirrel with a purple hue. Speculations as to how the animal got that way include pokeberries, fracking fluid, and a portable toilet. 

By Associated Press / February 10, 2012

A couple in Pennsylvania trapped what appears to be a purple squirrel, an oddity in the animal kingdom.

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Jersey Shore, Pa.

A couple in central Pennsylvania found a very unusual critter in their backyard — a purple squirrel.

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Percy Emert said he and his wife, Connie, have cage-like traps in their yard to keep squirrels away from the bird feeders. Percy Emery then releases the squirrels into the woods away from his home but joked that sometimes they make it back to his house before he does.

"I came home (one day recently) and my wife said, 'You're not going to believe it but I saw a purple squirrel in the yard,'" he said Thursday. "So I put out a trap with a couple of peanuts inside."

Before too long, the squirrel came back and found itself in the trap Sunday.

"I thought, 'Nobody's going to believe me," he said. "Even the inside of its ears were purple. It wasn't like it fell into something. It didn't look like that at all."

The animal quickly became an online sensation and even has its own Facebook page.

After the couple released the squirrel Tuesday, Percy Emert said a state game warden came by and took samples of purple fur that the squirrel left behind inside the cage, as well as six to eight pieces of fur that Percy Emert took from the squirrel's tail before releasing it.

"It looked like it was healthy, the only thing was that its teeth were brown," he said.

Asked about the possibility of having this particular squirrel making its way back to his house, Emert said he thought it was unlikely.

"It's far enough away," he said. "Maybe we'll hear about someone in town seeing it."

Henry Kacprzyk, a curator at the Pittsburgh Zoo, said Thursday he thought it looked like a gray squirrel tinged in purple, after looking at a picture of the critter on an iPhone.

He knows of albino squirrels. Black squirrels. Gray squirrels. Reddish squirrels.

"But the purple coloration, from the purple I saw ... it looked to me like this animal had come in contact with something with its fur and dyed its fur," Kacprzyk said. The squirrel could have come in contact with a pokeberry patch, but pokeberries aren't in season.

"I've got to think one of the suggestions might be it fell in a Portajohn that had blue coloration," he said with a chuckle. "I have no idea why ... but I don't think it was born that way."

When asked about the suggestions by some people in online forums of the potential impact of fracking fluid, Kacprzyk said the composition of such fluids in Pennsylvania wasn't known. "My guess there is if you don't know something, is that there's no scientific proof to that. ... I would find it amazing that it had that kind of effect," he said.

In general, purple is an unusual color for mammals, let alone squirrels.

"There are definitely birds that have coloration like this ... but not mammals," he said. "Mammals don't normally uptake color, ingest something it goes through and (then) it comes out through their fur."

Accuweather.com first reported the discovery.

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