“What’s that, an albino squirrel?!” you might say. But in Brevard, North Carolina, you would likely be mistaken. Located just outside Asheville, the white squirrels in this small mountain town lack their standard gray color due to leucism. The condition is genetic and results in variations of gray-streaked fur coats (Image 1) to full white appearance (Image 2). The biggest giveaway separating them from albino variants is their dark eyes and retaining some color pigmentation in their skin.
These unique creatures are technically Eastern Gray Squirrels that have thrived in and around Brevard due to their local protected status. While their exact origins are debated, the folklore goes back to around 1949, when it’s said a pair belonging to a traveling Florida carnival escaped captivity. Regardless of how they came to be, you can expect to see them all over town – particularly in Franklin Park or during a tour of Brevard College. The white squirrels are relatively plentiful and makeup about a third of the total squirrel population.
If you don’t see the white squirrels in the wild, venture into town, and you will be sure to find them artfully displayed on signs, and street poles, and incorporated into store names. Brevard is proud of its unique wildlife and hosts a White Squirrel Festival every summer in June. Here you will find street food, vendors, and several free concerts all weekend. This year’s event is Friday, June 3rd, and Saturday, June 4th. Street vendors will be available starting at 10 am, and live music is available on the White Squirrel Main Stage from 5 pm – 10:30 pm. Brevard’s locally owned outdoor retailer D.D. Bullwinkel’s Outdoors is the leading sponsor, so be sure to stop at their location on Main Street for all your hiking, camping, climbing, and exploring gear.
For more information on the festival, check out the official festival site