Our Little White Tree Rats
Transylvania County North Carolina is home to a population of white squirrels. A
population. Squirrel counts are done annually to determine percent of population and the strength of that population. We have the White Squirrel Shoppe, a White Squirrel Festival, White Squirrel Poop (popular with the younger crowd)... you name it. Our white squirrels are not albinos, but just a version of the gray squirrel. They have black eyes and usually a gray cap or stripe or both going down their backs. They mix freely with the gray squirrels, though from my personal observation, they do seem to be the bullies on the block. Maybe you have to be if you stick out so badly in the landscape.
I have to admit that the white squirrels of Brevard were definitely a factor in bringing me to this small city. So were the newly constructed library, the local college, the arts programming and the huge wealth of natural resources and attractions. The county bills itself as the "Land of Waterfalls," and there are certainly a number of them. Big ones. The Blue Ridge Parkway borders the north end of the county and a huge chunk of the county is National Forest--Pisgah National Forest, which is a temperate rainforest.
Fancy that--it's raining again today.
Our white squirrels have been successful enough genetically that you can observe "crossover" characteristics. We have a visiting gray squirrel we call Frosty because the fur of his sides is tipped as if he'd spent hours at the salon getting "done."
We tried different feeder foods for our squirrel and bird population and quickly decided that corn or peanuts in the shell would not do--too many squirrels too happy to bury them all over the yard. So we have switched to shelled peanuts, which keeps the squirrels happy, but also brings us increased visitation from bluejays, nuthatches, red-bellied woodpeckers, titmice and chickadees. Problem-solving spawned by too many baby corn plants all over the yard.
Our white squirrels are to me a whimsical addition to the native fauna. I get an enormous kick out of seeing them chase each other around the walnut tree. If I get all that fun just because of a recessive gene, so much the better.
[photo: white squirrel with dug-up black walnut]