Imari Scarbrough Staff Writer
August 14, 2013
A rare albino raccoon tempted by a peanut butter and jelly sandwich found its way to an Anson County resident’s garden.
Clinton Harward said he lured the raccoon with the sandwich, trapping it to protect the corn in his garden at his house in the Burnsville community. After trapping it and taking photos of the rare albino, Harward released it.
Although he couldn’t quote statistics as it varies among species, “albinism is exceedingly rare,” district biologist Rupert Medford said, adding that he had never seen an albino raccoon. Often, albino animals have other abnormalities. “You hear a lot of times that they’re deaf or have deformities of the jaw, though I don’t know how common that is in coons,” he said.
Additionally, albino animals may suffer vision problems, shorter limbs and an overbite, as well as a lack of natural camouflage, making them easier targets from predators. Their generally poor eyesight, caused by a lack of pigment in the iris of their eyes, compounds their danger as the animals are less likely to notice threats, according to Medford.
Some animals are only partial albinos. Although they also have a lack of melanin, leucism means that while the animals may be partially or fully white, other parts such as their eyes have normal pigmentation, according to Medford.
Albinism is considered a “rare, heritable trait resulting from recessive alleles passed down from both parents,” Medford said via email. Although some states protect albinos, North Carolina has no such laws. “Since this seems to go against naturally selective forces, it may seem counterintuitive,” Medford said. “However, even when protected the trait rarely becomes common in a population.” Medford said that farmers are allowed to trap raccoons to protect their crops if necessary but that relocating them is illegal due to the rabies factor.