You don’t have to spend much time in Brevard before you catch sight of the four paws and fluffy white tail of Transylvania County’s most beloved local mascot, the white squirrel. From shops on Main Street to countless souvenirs to the official White Squirrel Institute
to city-wide festivals to the actual critters themselves, scampering across lawns and into the branches surrounding Brevard, white squirrels are everywhere.
The story of how the white squirrel came to reside in Transylvania County has a whiff of legend about it. A longstanding theory has it that a pair traveling with a circus up from Florida escaped a wrecked caravan and took refuge in a local pecan orchard. It is known that a breeding pair of squirrels came to live with a local family as pets in the 1940s. They were released into the wild in the 1950s. The rest is (extremely cute) history.
Brevard’s white squirrels are not albinos, in fact, they're actually a color variation within the same species as the common gray squirrel. The White Squirrel Institute supports programs that keep track of the local population with an annual count, as well as rescue and rehabilitation. Their popular Adopt-A-Squirrel Program
allows humans to support their cause with a donation.
Pisgah Pete, a rescue squirrel turned local celebrity, sometimes puts in an appearance at Brevard events. Notably, he takes center-stage at White Squirrel Day, Transylvania County’s own spin on Groundhog Day, where he makes predictions about the coming spring and the winner of the Super Bowl. While he gets it right most of the time, Pete called for a 49ers win at 2020's event. We'll see if he is correct about six more weeks of winter.
Squirrel fans will be delighted by the amount of local products, shops and services paying homage to the animals. The White Squirrel Festival
, a weekend-long event occurring every May, features an outstanding line-up of live music, local vendors, food and drink, road races, parades, and plenty of white squirrel-related shenanigans.
Catching sight of an actual white squirrel in the wild requires a little patience and a lot of serendipity. White Squirrels can be seen all over Brevard (and by some reports, have started to trickle over the border and into few surrounding counties). Both Silvermont
and Franklin Park
are home to a fair number of the fluffy-tailed, but squirrel-spotters cite the Brevard College
campus as one of the most reliable sighting locations.