In Colorado, a dispute arose over whether a man should be feeding local squirrels. Folks in the community were apparently concerned about the fact that he was feeding peanuts to the squirrels, which could be problematic to local children with nut allergies. These concerned neighbors posted flyers, and at some point a tete a tete between the squirrel feeder (Jon Barbour) and a neighbor occurred. Things escalated, the men accused each other of being “white trash,” punches were thrown, and Barbour consequently shot the neighbor in the buttocks. He called police to turn himself in, was arrested, and now faces attempted murder charges, and from 8-32 years in prison.
But the story doesn’t end there. Barbour defended his squirrel feeding frenzy (apparently leaving “pounds of peanuts” out for our twitchy friends) by explaining that feeding squirrels was how he communed with the spirits of his dead parents. I’ll be following this case, as the preliminary trial happens on June 9th.
I have really fallen behind on my squirrel news reporting responsibilities, and there has been SO MUCH squirrel news, that this week will require two posts to catch up. Today, a lot of power outages, squirrels and food, and squirrels in schools and squirrel rescue. Stay tuned for Part II, which will feature A LOT of squirrels and crime, squirrels and sports, this week in cute, and MUCH MORE!
Annoying squirrels for science
I'm very excited that my research examining fox squirrels' responses to a frustrating task has finally been published. This was my first study in graduate school, and although my research questions have changed a lot since then, I had a lot of fun with this one! I spoke with Rachel Gross at Slate about my study, you can read all about it here!
I'm all for the celebration of rodents; we just had Squirrel Appreciation day, and now today, we (sort of) celebrate another rodent, the groundhog (who happens to also be a squirrel!). I think it's cute, like everyone else, that somehow people are obsessed with the folklore (originated in the 1800s) that somehow a rodent could see into the future and predict the weather.
I don't know if there's anyway to tastefully combine Martin Luther King Jr., Day - a day of activism and to contemplate the state of racism, privilege, justice, and equality in our country - with cats and squirrels, but I'm going to try. Kudos to the activists who shut down the Bay Bridge on Monday in a non-violent protest.
Today (January 22) is Answer Your Cat's Questions Day. What do you think cats want to know about humans? It may sound silly (and in fact it is). But in my work as a cat behavior consultant, I spend a lot of trying helping folks understand their cats' needs better, and its easy to see that humans do things that might perplex cats - like not providing them with adequate scratching, climbing or toileting options, and then getting angry when cats scratch, climb, or go to the bathroom on other things. We expect cats to love new cats, we expect them to sleep when they are bored, and to let us pet them and hold them even when they don't want to be petted or held. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US HUMANS? No wonder cats need their questions answered.
It's been a rough few months...I submitted two manuscript revisions (one of which has been accepted! Huzzah!)! I went to New York City to be a panelist at the Better with Pets Summit! And I'm madly preparing for my final experiment that I hope will lead to my receiving a PhD sooner rather than later.
But, until the graduate school tidal wave returns...it's time to find out what squirrels have been up to for the last two months (no surprise, they've been busy).
Squirrels’ Reign of Terror
Marin County on high alert
The biggest news of late is the report of EIGHT separate squirrel attacks in a neighborhood in Novato, CA. Some of the attacks occurred when a squirrel jumped from a tree onto its victim. The problem began a few weeks ago, when the squirrel entered a school, biting a teacher and a student before being chased out of the building.