White Squirrels Taking over N.C.

A double rainbow crosses over Brevard. (Photo by Jake Hackman

By Kate Seiber, 2017

Traveling down Highway 64, Brevard is a town you might accidentally pass without a second thought. Seemingly ordinary, Brevard is your standard All-American, North Carolina town- The people are friendly, the food is decent, and you’ve got your standard, run-of-the-mill wildlife- deer, rabbits, and squirrels. But the “normalness” ends there. Brevard, interestingly enough, is famously known for its random population of white squirrels. Not to be confused with albino squirrels, Brevard’s white squirrels have normal pigmentation and typical dark squirrel eyes- it’s the snow-white fur and gray streak that runs down the length of their spine that makes them stand out. Squirrels are a common critter in every town- you might not view them as anything other than glorified vermin, but in Brevard, white squirrels are revered and put on a pedestal.

Students dressed up as white squirrels (Photo by Jake Hackman)

Colored squirrels aren’t necessarily anything to write home about. We’ve all heard of black squirrels, gray squirrels, and of course the standard brown squirrel, but white? Those are relatively uncommon. Only twelve states in the US can claim populations of white squirrels, which makes these select few outlying critters extra special in the animal kingdom. These squirrels didn’t just appear out of nowhere either. Sometime in 1949, a carnival truck carrying a small amount of these white squirrels overturned enabling them to escape and begin breeding, relatively actively, in the wild. Though still rare to spot, these squirrels have been roaming the county for over 50 years and attracting tourists all the while. As a small, arguably out-of-the-way town in NC, the amount of individuals that come searching for the white squirrel is significant.

Driving through the town, it’s not hard to tell how much the residents of Brevard adore the beloved white squirrel. The love for these creatures is so real that the town hosts an annual White Squirrel Festival every Memorial Day weekend complete with free live music, 5K and 10K races, guided tours, exhibits, squirrel feeder, and photo contests. But the fondness all started in 1986 when a town ordinance was established for these creatures. The ordinance reads as follows: “The entire area embraced within the corporate limits of the city is hereby designated as a sanctuary for all species of squirrel (family Sciuriadae), and in particular the ‘Brevard White Squirrel.’ It shall be unlawful for any person to hunt, kill, trap, or otherwise take any protected squirrels within the city by this section.” So if one of these speedy, little things runs out in front of your car, you’d better slam on those brakes- that goes without being said.