An Unusual Discovery

As I wandered through the lush greenery of Brevard, North Carolina, a flash of white caught my eye. There, playfully scampering across the forest floor, was a squirrel unlike any I had seen before – its fur was a brilliant, snowy white. This was my first encounter with Brevard’s famous leucistic white squirrels, a sight both rare and mesmerizing. Far away, in Olney, Illinois, another unique squirrel dwells – the albino white squirrel, equally captivating with its stark white fur and pink eyes. These two unique squirrel populations, each with their distinct genetic quirks, offer a fascinating glimpse into the wonders of nature.

Brevard’s Leucistic White Squirrels: A Genetic Marvel

In Brevard, the white squirrels are not albinos but leucistic, meaning they lack pigmentation in their fur but have normal colored eyes. This genetic condition, leucism, results in partial loss of pigmentation. Unlike albinism, it doesn’t affect the eyes or cause sensitivity to sunlight.

Brevard’s white squirrels originated from a pair of white squirrels brought to the area in the 1940s. Since then, they have become a symbol of the town, with an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 individuals, representing about 40% of the local squirrel population (according to Brevard College’s annual White Squirrel Research Institute census).

baby white squirrel

Olney’s Albino White Squirrels: A Rarity in Nature

In contrast, Olney, Illinois, is renowned for its population of albino white squirrels. Albinism is a genetic condition characterized by a complete lack of melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes. These squirrels have distinctive pink or red eyes and are more sensitive to sunlight than their pigmented counterparts.

Olney’s albino squirrels have been a part of the town’s identity since the early 1900s, with strict measures in place to protect them. As of the latest surveys, there are approximately 100 to 200 albino squirrels in Olney, making up a significant portion of the town’s squirrel population.

albino white squirrel

White Squirrel Behavior and Adaptation

Interestingly, both leucistic and albino squirrels exhibit similar behaviors to their pigmented counterparts. They have the same dietary habits, mating rituals, and social structures. However, their unique coloration does come with challenges, primarily increased visibility to predators and, in the case of albinos, vision problems due to the lack of eye pigmentation.

White Squirrel  Conservation and Cultural Impact

Both Brevard and Olney have embraced their unique squirrels, turning them into conservation symbols and tourist attractions. These towns host annual festivals celebrating their white squirrels, which helps raise awareness about wildlife conservation and biodiversity.

Celebrating Nature’s Diversity with White Squirrels

The white squirrels of Brevard and Olney serve as reminders of nature’s capacity for diversity and adaptation. They are not just quirks of genetics but symbols of the unique and unexpected wonders in our natural world. As we strive to protect and understand these rare creatures, we also learn to appreciate the beauty and intricacy of nature’s design.