I never really gave much thought about the colour of squirrels until I came across an article recently about the white squirrels of Exeter. I know that in many parts of Canada and the United States, squirrels are mostly black and grey. Very few are white.
Incidentally, in Great Britain black squirrels are as rare as our white squirrels. Being inquisitive, I decided it was a reason to visit this village of 5,000 located in the Municipality of South Huron just 40 kilometres north of London.
Exeter was founded in 1832 by immigrants from the Exeter and Devon areas of England. Many of the original homes and businesses in the downtown have been lovingly restored. History buffs will love visiting this village. Today, their village mascot is, "Willis the White Wonder" a giant white squirrel. After a three hour drive Ellen and I saw a welcoming sign proclaiming, "Exeter, The Home of the White Squirrel."
When we arrived on the main street of their lovely picturesque downtown it was even more evident the white squirrel reigned supreme. Garbage containers, street signs and private businesses sprouted outlines of this furry little mammal. Okay, we needed to see the real thing. The question I asked the locals was, "Where are these squirrels?"
A lifelong resident, who identified himself as simply Citizen Hugh wanted me to know, "These white squirrels are not albinos. Their eyes are not pink. These dark-eyed squirrels are a genetic mutation from years ago." He said the best time to see the squirrels were early in the morning or at dusk. You can find them in the trees or on the lawns of just about any of the beautiful homes found off the Main Street.
Another place I intended to stake out was McNaughton Park at the end of town. That's where I struck pay dirt. I spotted a few cute furry creatures with large eyes and white bushy tails. One was leaping from tree to tree and another scurried across a garden lawn. They seemed to slow down a bit, kind of like they were waiting for me to take a photograph. I've attached a few photos to prove it.
After I had my fill of white squirrels it was time to explore this friendly place where locals still say hello to you when you walk the sidewalks.
Wide Main Street is easy to walk. Street parking is free so there was no need to feed the meter as we started to wander. There are plenty of unique places to see on Main Street. One that caught the eye was the Exeter Lawn Bowling Club. Some of the members (dressed in white) invited us to relax on benches under shaded mature trees. Getting out of the very hot 32 C degree weather was a treat and much appreciated.
Another place to cool off was the air-conditioned Trivett Memorial Anglican Church. A welcome sign on the outside of the main door invited us in.
We learned from the church pastor that the church was celebrating its 50th anniversary. The church is a fine example of early Gothic architecture, built of local white brick. The woodwork inside was white pine, stained an oak shade. Very impressive and very cool.
Not far away is an impressive historic brick building that dominates the downtown. It's where the offices of the Municipality of South Huron are located. The village Public Library is attached.
There were enough shops to keep us interested and when it was time to eat we stepped inside a local favourite, Tasty Bites, where we received great food at a reasonable price by our server Gloria.
If you arrive on a Thursday afternoon (different than most Farmers Markets) between 2-6 PM, check out the local Farmer's Market. It's not a big one, but you'll be able to mingle with the people that call Exeter their home. You might even buy some fruits or vegetables. On the way home drive slowly and look out for the white squirrels.
The White Wonder of Exeter Ontario Canada
The White Squirrel Phenomenon
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.