Our real estate agent took us on a tour of the college campus and pointed out several white sqirrels playing in the trees. Amazing! Regular readers will know that I am not fond of squirrels of any color, but it really was something to see these white ones running around. We learned that the second largest gathering in the town was the annual "White Squirrel Festival." A town ordinance passed in 1986 declared Brevard to be a sanctuary for all squirrels and "particularly for the Brevard White Squirrel." So the squirrel had been given the name "Brevard White Squirrel." I thought it exciting that the squirrel had mutated right in the town where we planned to live.
Curious person that I am, I did some research on the white squirrel. Much to my chagrin I discovered the white squirrel was actually brought to Brevard in 1949. What a downer! It seems a circus truck in Florida overturned and two captive white squirrels escaped. They took up residence in a yard and the owner caught them and brought them to a friend in Brevard. The friend gave the two white squirrels to his niece, Barbara Mull. In 1951 the niece married and left home. Shortly thereafter one of the squirrels escaped. Barbara's father felt that the only thing to do was to release the remaining squirrel into the wild. Soon, more and more white squirrels were sighted in our fair little town.
Yes, dear reader...the truth of the Brevard White Squirrel is the awful truth of an exotic "pet" released into the wild. Since their release in 1951, the white squirrels have bred with the native Eastern Grey Squirrels to the extent that now more than a fourth of the squirrels within the town limits are white.
The all-white squirrels do not belong to a separate species...they are Eastern Grey Squirrels that happen to be white. The "Brevard" white squirrels have grey markings on the top of their heads. Otherwise they are white with dark beady little black eyes just like every other squirrel.
Most of the white squirrels in our county are found within the town limits of Brevard. We live nine miles up the mountain and we had never seen one in our community although we heard there were a few here. Imagine our surprise when we spotted a white squirrel right in our back yard. He seemed quite unafraid of us as he flitted around the trees. Yes, I will admit that he is cute. He looks rather pink because you can see his skin. But his beady little black eyes indicate that he does indeed have pigment and is not an albino. The dots of grey on his head are a dead giveaway...he is a Brevard White Squirrel.
So if you happen to visit our fair little mountain town, you will be bombarded with all things white squirrel, including cookies and candy. If you see a squirrel in the town, there is a 25% chance it will be a white one. I love seeing the look on the faces of tourists when they see their first white squirrel. They grab their cameras hoping for a good picture.
----------And I truly wish I could be excited about them. Having learned the true story of their introduction, I can view them only as invasive. OK, they do not appear to have done any harm, and they do draw people to the area. It's just the idea that "wild" pets were released to the outdoors that really bothers me.
----------Perhaps I should actually appreciate the wit and skills of the two white squirrels released in 1951. They left a protected environment and managed to survive and thrive in the wild. (Although it doesn't hurt that so many people put out peanuts and other food hoping to attract them.)