Have you ever seen a black squirrel? When we started planning our visit to Marysville, we discovered that this Kansas town has an unexpected mascot. It seems that sometime in the past, black squirrels were introduced to this environment. Now they have proliferated throughout the community and have achieved somewhat of celebrity status. While our trip to this north-central Kansas town was primarily based on learning the local history, we couldn’t pass up adding spotting these cute creatures to our “to do” list.

We want to thank Visit Marysville for hosting our visit. Rest assured all opinions are our own.

A common red squirrel looks on as we scan the canopy in search of black squirrels.

Oh Look, a Squirrel!

When we first arrive at a new destination it is time for our introductory video. These are usually a short segment that lets everyone know where we are in the world. When we hit the town in Marysville, our destination was the City Park. This green space is home to the city’s swimming pool and tennis courts. It also has a few touristy items, like a sod house and train engine. We made our way to a space that can be used for RV campers. Michelle, our connection at the local tourism bureau, had clued us in that black squirrels are often spotted in the city park. We kept our eyes peeled for one of these elusive creatures, but only caught the standard red squirrels.

A black squirrel pales in size to the more common gray or red squirrels.

Our First Sighting

With our video complete, it was time for our first tour. Off to the Courthouse Museum for an in-depth look at the history of Marysville. While we were there, our tour guide Dixie asked us if we had seen a black squirrel. Our answer must have shown our disappointment, but she reassured us that they are plentiful. After our tour, we were hanging around outside of the museum, while updating our social media. (Yeah, the behind the scenes work can be pretty time-consuming.) Dixie came out of the museum on her way to lunch. She headed back in and returned with a handful of dried corn cobs, which she placed in a nearby feeder. “Two hours” was what she told us it would take before the corn would be all gobbled up.

Our first black squirrel sightings had us giddy with excitement.

Tree Huggers

Our next stop was lunch at a nearby BBQ joint. (You know we had to sample the local ‘cue.) After we finished, we made our way back by the museum to see if the corn had worked any magic. Lo and behold, we spotted our target cautiously munching away. I guess it was lunchtime for black squirrels, as well. I rushed to the car for my telephoto lens, since we had quickly learned that these creatures are skittish. Our new friend watched with trepidation as I clicked away. Finally, our first black squirrel sighting.

They Do Exist!

This little fellow finally got used to our presence and went back to munching on the corn that Dixie had provided. This allowed me to sneak a little closer to grab a video opportunity. Our observations of the local squirrel population did lead us to some conclusions. Most of the black squirrels that we saw were smaller than their red or gray neighbors. Perhaps this was the reason that the black squirrels seemed a little timider. They definitely seemed to let the other types take the lead on being visible.

An iconic black squirrel statue rests near the entrance to a local Catholic school.

Black Squirrels on Parade

Ever since our arrival, we had been spotting these large fiberglass black squirrels. These five-foot statues are part of the “Black Squirrels on Parade” display put on by this city of around 3000 residents. Various businesses sponsored the 34 sculptures that are found all around town. A map is provided that points out the location of each one. Searching them out is a fun activity and a good way to get a lay of the land in Marysville. Each black squirrel is named and decorated in a way that represents the sponsoring business, which adds a deeper level of connection with the community. One of our favorites was “St. Teresa”, which sits outside of a local Catholic school. A group of smaller “student” squirrels is situated around the base of the statue.

Three of the colorful black squirrel statues that can be found scattered around Marysville.

A Squirrel of a Different Color

With all of this hubbub around the black squirrels, we started wondering where they came from. After all, we have never seen them in any other Kansas city or town. It seems that the origin is a little shrouded in mystery. Their presumed introduction came in 1912. A traveling carnival was visiting Marysville and had brought with them some of the black squirrels more familiar to the Great Lakes. A young boy, helped the caged creatures escape to a nearby park, where they flourished.

An assortment of the "Black Squirrels on Parade" in Marysville, Kansas.

Black Squirrel Bonanza

Today, black squirrels account for about 20% of the population in Marysville. By doing a little research, we discovered that the town’s mascot is actually protected by law. A local ordinance states that black squirrels are granted “the freedom to trespass on all city property, immunity from traffic regulations, and the right of first choice to all black walnuts growing within the city.” The city has even adapted a social media hashtag designed to showcase their local celebrities. #Nuts4Marysville hints at the local love for these elusive beings.

The authors pose with their new black squirrel friend in Marysville, Kansas.

Black Squirrel Spotters

When we announced our plan to visit Marysville, we heard black squirrel stories from some of you. Missing out on spotting one of the creatures was not going to be acceptable. The plan was to record and show that they do exist. If you had told us a year ago that we would be so excited to spot a squirrel, we would have looked sideways at you. Little did we realize that we would actually be scanning the trees for signs of these cute animals. It may have taken a little persuasion from Dixie to make our first sighting, but that just opened the floodgates. Now we pass the torch to all of you to tell us some of your black squirrel stories. We’d love to read about them in the comments section below!

the authors signatures.

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