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  • Writer's pictureCheré Dastugue Coen

Get squirrely in Bowling Green

The western Kentucky town is home to a unique white squirrel population.

white squirrel of bowling green kentucky
Credit: Clinton Lewis / WKU

I’m an avid birder so even though I love squirrels, they pinch my very last nerve getting into my feeders. My sister gives me grief about this because she’s enamored with the fuzzy rodents. She also attended Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which is home to a large population of rare white squirrels.

 

Go figure.

 

This Kentucky white squirrel has become an unofficial symbol of the university, and you can find them scampering all around town. Bowling Green’s famed white squirrels are actually Eastern grey squirrels that have reduced pigmentation in their fur, meaning that the melanin that’s typically found in the fur of their grey cousins didn’t make it into the coats of the Kentucky version. The characteristic, called “leucism,” is passed through a recessive gene. A squirrel with leucism can be easily distinguished from one with albinism based on eye color; Bowling Green’s squirrels have big, black eyes rather than pink ones.

 

In general, a white squirrel is a rare critter—which is probably why they’re associated with good luck—but they’ve been in Bowling Green for at least 80 years. You can find a huge number of them (fun fact: a group of squirrels is called a “scurry”) on the campus of my sister’s alma mater, Western Kentucky University, where students and faculty alike go out of their way to protect the animals. This has helped the creatures not just survive but thrive across campus. No matter what color fur they have, squirrels usually react well to humans, have little fear of them and benefit from their presence. It also helps that the campus has plenty of concrete walkways, where the light-colored squirrels are better camouflaged from the birds of prey that stalk from above.

 

Western Kentucky University is home to the Kentucky Museum, which is free and open to the public, so it’s entirely possible to show up on campus, visit a cool museum and get a peek at the squirrels in the process. You can also spot these white creatures on the grounds above Lost River Cave.

white squirrel of bowling green kentucky
Credit: Clinton Lewis / WKU

In addition, you can find the white squirrel in the names and logos of favorite local businesses and events. Last April, the White Squirrel Arts Fest launched to celebrate the town’s creative side, and the second annual event is set for April 19-21, 2024. This past September, White Squirrel Brewery opened a bar on State Street downtown.

 

If you want a souvenir of your encounter with Bowling Green’s favorite rodents, both White Squirrel Brewery and the campus shop at Western Kentucky University sell squirrel merchandise. In addition, Jan Trabue, a local clinical counselor and wildlife photographer, has written a series of educational children’s books inspired by “Marty Lou,” a squirrel that lived in her backyard and sported a personality as big as his tail. Those books are sold at Candle Makers on the Square, a gift shop downtown. 

 

The Nuts and Bolts of Squirrels

  • In some Native American cultures, squirrels are symbols of preparedness, resourcefulness and adaptability. 

  • Squirrels’ temperament is enviable. They’re tenacious, patient, persistent and adaptable.

  • Their fluffy tails act as umbrellas during rainstorms and also as cooling devices on hot days.

  • On a very steamy day, it’s not unusual to see a squirrel “splout,” or put its tummy down and lay spread out on a cool surface.

  • Squirrels don’t properly hibernate, but they do love spending long hours snoozing in their nests during winter.

  • Squirrels are nature’s athletes–specifically gymnasts. Their tails provide them with excellent balance and they’re known for both speed and agility.

  • Squirrels are incredibly chatty. They can bark, purr and even scream, depending on what mood they’re in.

  • They’re not just vocal, though; they’re experts at communicating non-verbally, too. Sometimes their tails tell you more than their sounds do … and they even stomp their tiny feet when they’re agitated.

Thanks to Mindy Bianca Public Relations for this post.


Want to read more about squirrels? Squirrels are going nuts about this new arts initiative in Henry County, Georgia. Read more here.





Weird, Wacky & Wild South is the brainchild of Cheré Coen, a travel writer who loves all things Southern and weird. She does love squirrels but would appreciate it if they stayed out of her bird feeders! But they do give her cats entertainment.

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