It's time for the yearly squirrel count in Olney.
The 39th annual event starts this Saturday, Oct. 7.
Olney City Clerk Kelsie Sterchi says this is a big deal because the community receives quite a bit of tourism for being known as the Home of the White Squirrels. But, she says the squirrel count involves more than just their albino friends.
"The gray squirrels, they carry the albino gene, so we count them. We count the whites obviously. We also count the fox squirrels, which are larger and red, because they're more dominant and will take over a community. So, we want to keep them out. We also track the stray cats that we see because obviously they can be a problem for squirrels."
says it's important to track their population because the numbers have fallen dramatically the past couple of years.
"The program was started by Dr. Stencel back in the 70's. He was a professor here at our junior college. According to his predictions, if we don't take some actions to help these white squirrels, they could be extant by 2033 and that's different than extinct. If they're extinct it means they don't exist anywhere. Extant means they are gone from one general location."
Sterchi says the count helps community leaders determine what steps to take to protect the white squirrels. She says that might be animal control keeping an eye on stray cats or offering residents free corn to feed the squirrels.
She says volunteers are needed for the count on any or all of the Saturdays. To sign up, call Sterchi at Olney City Hall at 618-395-7302...extension 3.