As a Park Ranger, people visiting parks look to you as the expert as all things they might see. Because of this, I frequently get asked about something they’ve seen during their visit — an animal, a bird, a flower. When I worked at Sequoia National Park, we were constantly getting asked, “What’s the white flower by the side of the road?” Of course, there were upwards of twenty white flowers blooming at the time, so it made it quite difficult. Very often, we are able to help them out, but in reality, most of us aren’t botanists or wildlife biologists, so occasionally we get stumped.
Recently, I got stumped by what seemed like a mystery creature. While working at the park visitor center the last couple of weeks, I had been hearing about this strange creature from visitors. They had described it in various ways — hairless large rat, bald squirrel, etc. People kept asking me what I thought it was, but when you are trying to figure out strictly on someone’s description, it can be tough.. A few years ago, a woman was sure she’d seen a wolverine, which is quite rare. In fact, it turned out to be a large marmot. So, the fact that several people were asking about this hairless creature was confounding me. Today, I finally got an answer, when a couple again told me they had seen this weird creature, but in fact, had taken several pictures of it. I must say it is unlike anything I have ever seen in any national park, and one of the ugliest critters I have ever seen. After much consultation with rangers and the park wildlife biologist, we have settled on it being a hairless marmot. Why it is this way, we are still researching. Stay tuned for more information on the mystery creature….