Those not in the know may give you a sidelong glance when you mention Brevard’s white squirrels. There are plenty of locations, however, in and around the city to prove the nonbelievers’ wrong.
Because of its park-like landscape, the Brevard College campus in downtown is a great location to view one’s first white squirrel.
Other locations 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, Warren and Bluebird lanes, McCrary Acres, Morgan Heights and the general area between Elm Bend Road and Outland Avenue.
The area southwest of the Brevard Post Office is also a hot spot, while areas outside Brevard, such as in the Pisgah Forest community, are becoming places to see them.
So, once you spot your first white squirrel, two questions may come to mind: 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.
The city of Brevard has passed an ordinance protecting the little critters, while a music festival is held in their honor every year during the Memorial Day weekend. T
he past few years another tradition has started. Pisgah Pete, the festival’s white squirrel mascot, has now turned his talents to predicting each February whether there will be an early spring. 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 attends the festival, makes his predictions and goes to schools for educational programs. “He’s not phased the slightest by all the people watching him, and he’ll even do little poses,” Burgin has said.