Each February, Pisgah Pete, a white squirrel, predicts whether there will be an early spring during a special ceremony in downtown Brevard. (This year, Pete accurately predicted six more weeks of winter.) Pete has come a long way after having his jaw broken and suffering a significant head injury a few years ago. Today, thanks to wildlife rehabilitator Jennifer Burgin, Pete is a star attraction in the annual White Squirrel Festival held during the Memorial Day weekend and goes to schools for educational programs.
Pete is living proof of something that visitors often find hard to believe: white squirrels are more than just a figment of our imagination. They can be found, and photographed, in Brevard and other locations in Transylvania County.
To spot them, because of its park-like landscape, the Brevard College campus is a great location. Other good viewing spots in Brevard include the Silvermont grounds on East Main Street, Franklin Park, which is literally a couple of minutes away from Silvermont on Lakeview Avenue, and South Broad Park.
A high concentration may also be found north and east of Brevard Elementary School on Warren and Bluebird lanes and in McCrary Acres, Morgan Heights, and the general area between Elm Bend Road and Outland Avenue.
The area southwest of the Brevard Post Office is another good spot, while areas outside Brevard, such as in the Pisgah Forest community, are becoming increasingly populated by white squirrels.
Two questions may come to mind about the creatures: why are they white, and how did they get here? Brevard’s white squirrels are not albinos. They have brown eyes rather than pink ones. Researchers found that the lack of pigment is caused by a recessive genetic defect. The origin of the white squirrels being here makes for an interesting story. Resident Barbara Mull Lang remembers when she was 10 years old, several decades ago, that her uncle visited Brevard and brought with him two white squirrels.
A man called M.M. Black had given her uncle the squirrels after he helped to catch them in Black’s pecan grove. The animals had apparently escaped from a carnival truck.
Lang said she took care of the squirrels and later left them with her grandfather when her family moved away from Brevard.
But one of the squirrels escaped, and her grandfather felt so sorry for the other one that he released it into the wild.