White Squirrel Institute

Save a White Squirrel

You can help in the conservation and preservation of our White Squirrels, by Donating directly to the Institute or for  $25*  you can adopt a white squirrel.

DonateAdopt a White Squirrel

A frequently asked question:

Where did Brevard White Squirrels originally come from?

Barbara Mull Lang was gifted the first pair of Brevard’s White Squirrels and she the writes in a letter to the Transylvania Times, “Through the years I have read many articles about the origin of your white squirrels.  Some of the articles contained untrue statements and this was very disturbing to me.  I am writing this to you so that you have the true facts and story about Brevard’s white squirrels.

When I was around ten years old my Uncle Harry and Aunt Mary came home for Christmas and stayed with us since we had extra bedrooms.  Uncle Harry had a cage with two white squirrels that he put in our living room.

He said his friend, Mr. M. Black gave him the squirrels in return for his help capturing them in his pecan orchard in Madison, FL.  Mr. Black said the squirrels escaped when a circus caravan that was involved in an accident.  The circus moved on without the white squirrels.”
Click here to read the complete letter from Barbara.



Getting Involved

Adopt a White Squirrel. Save an Animal

What Drives Us

Our Mission

The preservation and conservation of Brevard’s white squirrel population and wildlife. To support licensed wildlife rehabilitators in their efforts to save injured white squirrels and wildlife in Transylvania County.

One of our recent white squirrel rescues

Donate for a Cause

Transylvania County has a very active wild life rehabilitation community. This community is made up of passionate individuals that give tirelessly of their time and their money to help sick, and injured animals.

One of the directives of the White Squirrel Institute is raise money to help defray the rehabilitators cost that goes into the care of our wildlife.

Your tax deductible donation would go a long way in helping Transylvania wild life and our White Squirrels.

Adopt a White Squirrel

Adopt a white squirrel and support the White Squirrel Institute. For $25*, you can adopt your own white squirrel. You can select a boy or a girl and you will receive a Certificate of Adoption and a photo of your squirrel.

It’s true you’re not adopting a specific white squirrel in the wild. But your adoption fee will be directed towards the efforts of our local White Squirrel conservation and rehabilitation efforts. Funds raised will also help defray costs associated with the white squirrel count, printed materials regarding the results of the survey, and other conservation-related expenses.

The  White Squirrel Weekend is almost here.

*25 Adoption fee does not include mailing fees.

white squirrel

What is a White Squirrel?

The white Squirrels found in Brevard, North Carolina are a color variant of one of our native species, the Eastern Gray Squirrel. The Brevard white squirrels are leucistic which is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation in animals caused by a recessive gene. Our white squirrels are unique because their coats are mostly white but there is a distinctive head patch and dorsal stripe that broadens in the shoulder region. The head patch can be solid, horseshoe or doughnut shaped; it may resemble a triangle, a diamond, deer tracks or even a widow’s peak (Count Dracula). They have dark eyes and there is some evidence that this pattern is inherited. To learn more Brevard’s White Squirrels click here.

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Where can I see a White Squirrel in Brevard?

white squirrel

I’m planning a trip to Brevard but have a very tight schedule what are my chances of seeing a White Squirrel and where can I see one?

The key word in your question is “chance.” We do not keep our white squirrels in captivity.  In fact, there is a city ordinance against that. Like all animals, squirrels have regular patterns of behavior over long periods of time but are very unpredictable at any given moment. Weather, hunger, and seasonality are just a few of the factors that may alter their usual behavior. So is human activity. In other words, there are no guarantees. The best way to ensure seeing one is to stay here for awhile. Although the white squirrels make up almost a third of our squirrel population, some regions of the city and county have none while others have more than half.

Many areas where white squirrel live are on private property with little visibility and/or parking. In addition, 

while most home owners are proud of their white squirrels, they might be suspicious of strangers walking through. Therefore, I would suggest trying “public places.” The Brevard Visitor Center is a great place to start. From there you can visit Silvermont and Franklin Parks. They have squirrels but not in large numbers. The best all around location is probably Brevard College which is also easy to find on N. Broad Street just downhill from the courthouse. It offers a large park-like environment with scattered trees for squirrels but yet good visibility for squirrel watchers. Within the campus, itself, the best areas are on the lawns surrounding the main entrance, along the creek, and in the area between the barn and the President’s house. Where ever you go, park the car and walk. The more time you spend on foot anywhere in Brevard, the more likely you are to spot a white squirrel. Happy hunting (with your camera, that is).

How to use our interactive White Squirrel Locator map.

On the map look for the White Squirrel Icon and the corresponding areas highlighted in blue. These area’s have the highest concentration of White Squirrels and you most likely to see one in action.

Brevard white squirrels

White Squirrels

white squirrel

Excerpts from The Transylvania Times:

Apparently, Brevard’s white squirrels originated from a carnival animal truck. According to Brevard resident Mrs. W.E. Mull, a pair of white squirrels was given to her brother-in-law, H.H. Mull, by Mr. Black of Madison, Florida, in 1949. A carnival truck had overturned near Black’s home and the squirrels were caught by Mr. Black when he observed them playing in his pecan grove.

Mull gave the critters to his niece, Barbara, who unsuccessfully tried to breed them. In 1951 she married and left home. Eventually, one of the white squirrels escaped and Mr. Mull soon let the other one go. Before long, the squirrels began breeding in the wild and appeared in several areas of town.

The white squirrels became so prized that the Brevard City Council voted to approve an ordinance declaring and establishing a sanctuary for squirrels, especially the white ones, in 1986. And that it “shall be unlawful for any person to hunt, kill, trap, or otherwise take any protected squirrels within the city by this section.”

Biologists recognize no known species of all-white squirrels in the world. The Brevard squirrels, with dark eyes and sometimes gray streaked fur, are not albinos==a condition in which an animal’s body has no melanin, a color pigment, resulting in white skin and fur, and pink or reddish eyes.

In addition to Brevard, white squirrels have been spotted in Olney, IL; Versailles, IL; Hodgenville, KY; Marionville, MO; Trenton, NJ; Bloomfield, NY; Greenwood, SC; and Kenton, TN. But only Brevard holds an annual festival in their honor!!

White Squirrels

how it started…

White Squirrel Research Institute

The founder of the original White Squirrel Research Institute was  Dr. Robert Glesener. He was a graduate of both the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan. His love for salamanders and the mountains brought him to the Brevard area where he taught at Brevard College for 26 years. It was here that he started the BC Recycling Program and the White Squirrel Count. 

 I first heard of Brevard while an undergraduate at the University of Maryland. Southern Appalachia is salamander heaven and I spent my summers in Western North Carolina trail blazing and collecting specimens for a zoology professor. I was hooked. I gave up my prior interest in medicine and psychology and became an ecologist. Even though my research eventually became more theoretical, to this day I cannot resist turning logs and rocks in Pisgah National Forest. The difference is that today I put back everything I catch.

I came to Brevard directly from graduate school at the University of Michigan. My research then dealt with (1) the regional stability of locally unstable predator/prey interactions and (2) the evolution and maintenance of sexual reproduction. During my twenty-six years at Brevard College, I have taught everything from Introductory Biology and Zoology to Ecology and Genetics. Outside the classroom I founded the Commuter Student Association and BC RECYCLES! I also maintained small projects monitoring stream water quality and the salamanders of Moore Cove, Pisgah National Forest.

In 1997, I began a long-term study of Brevard’s white squirrel population, which includes conducting the annual Fall Squirrel Count. Although I have since retired, I continue as Director of the White Squirrel Research Institute under the sponsorship of the Heart of Brevard.  

Dr. Robert Richard Glesener, 66, passed away on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013 and it is our hope to continue his legacy – the White Squirrel Count in the near future. 

If you or anyone you know is interested in working on the White Squirrel Count please email whitesquirrelinstitute@gmail.com.

new name and look

White Squirrel Institute

adopt a White Squirrel

Adoption fee’s go towards helping the sick and injured White Squirrels and area wildlife in Transylvania County. When you adopt, you are participating in the conservation and preservation of the white squirrels and wildlife in Transylvania County

Wild life rescue

If you find an injured wild animal be very careful when approaching it. Wild animals when injured  often will be more aggressive. Contact a licensed rehabilitator or veterinarian in your area for more information. For Transylvania County rehabilitators click here

White squirrel counts

Most of us think of our white squirrels as a curiosity. Certainly they bring us recognition and are the source of civic pride. For some, they bring more tangible benefits. As a tourist attraction they are a direct (souvenirs) and/or indirect (food and lodging) source of revenue. Wouldn’t it be a shame if while we were celebrating our unique critters, they were diminishing in number before our very eyes. That alone is reason to monitor their well being.


In the state of North Carolina it is illegal to keep any type of wild animal without a permit and prohibitive to keep wildlife as pets. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators are authorized to handle sick or injured wildlife. Please contact one of Transylvania County’s licensed rehabilitators if you have an injured wild animal.

News & Events

Pisgah Penny in the News for White Squirrel Fest 2023

Pisgah Penny in the News for White Squirrel Fest 2023

White Squirrel Pisgah Penny is in the news. She is  Brevards' white squirrel ambassador and helped to launch this year's White Squirrel Festival Weekend. Pictured above is Channel 7 News Christine Scarpelli meeting Pisgah Penny for the first time.  Brevard, North...

Blue Ghost Fireflies, Brevard NC

Blue Ghost Fireflies, Brevard NC

What are Blue Ghost Fireflies? The Blue Ghost fireflies (Phausis reticulate) are a rare, beautiful, and unique firefly species found in the mountains of western North Carolina, including the Brevard area. They are known for their distinctive blue-green glow, different...

2023 White Squirrel Day Live Event

2023 White Squirrel Day Live Event

White Squirrel Day will be a live event this yearLocation:Brevard Railroad Depot(390 Railroad Ave., Brevard NC) Date:Thursday, February 2, 2023 Time:Festivities start at 10amWhy: To raise money and awareness for Brevard's licensed wildlife rehabilitators through the...

A little bit about Brevard, North Carolina

Known as Land of the Waterfalls

Learn more

Brevard, North Carolina is home to 250 waterfalls and we have the highest concentration of waterfalls in the US. Brevard is also famous for it’s fly fishing, kayaking and tubing on the Davidson and French Broad Rivers. We are a bike hike community with miles and miles of trails located minutes away from downtown Brevard in Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest. Brevard is only 45 minutes away from Asheville and 30 minutes from Hendersonville. 

The White Squirrel Institute is proud to be in partnership with
Transylvania County Tourism.


Upcoming Events

White Squirrel Festival

2023 festival happening now – It’s squirrel time!

White Squirrel Day

February 2 – Let’s Go Nuts

BANFF Film Festival

March – Virtual – It’s all about the adventure

Assault on the Carolinas

TBD – Bike On!

White Squirrel Festival

White Squirrels are so popular in Brevard we named a street festival after them.

Annual White Squirrel Festival

This wonderful street festival  is FREE and features two-and-a-half days of great live music, in Downtown Brevard, North Carolina. It is the perfect way to experience everything this quaint mountain community has to offer. The first annual White Squirrel Festival started in 2003 and was created to help develop the business district of downtown, promote the local businesses, and showcase local talent.

This event is recognized as one of the premier music festivals in the southeast and often features national and regional artists to include Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, George Porter, Jr., Steep Canyon Rangers, Scythian, Jupiter Coyote and many others. It has also earned the reputation for showcasing undiscovered muscians and taps into the abundant musical talent in the region. The music genres are varied and typically included a mix of Jazz, Bluegrass, Reggae, Singer-Songwriter, Southern Rock and Rock and Roll, the eclectic music line-up provides something for everyone.

During the festival downtown is host to a wide variety of quality craftsman and artisans, street vendors and food trucks that come from near and far to participate in the White Squirrel Festival. It’s always fun to browse through the different booths and see what treasures you can find.

If you are a collector of festival wear you  are in luck. The Heart of Brevard commissions a local artist each year to design a tee shirt and poster for the event. We have many local residents the collect and frame the posters year after year and you will see many of the former designs worn around town during the event. Stop by the Heart of Brevard booth and pick up the 2019 tee shirt design and poster at the White Squirrel Festival or call to order.

Visit Whitesquirrelfestival.com website for more information.

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