Tag Archives: urban wildlife

Too smart to quit

A biology professor in Canada tells it like it is. Squirrels are just too smart for us to keep out of bird feeders. Although he tries.

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Speaking of birdfeeders, you say potato, I say...

Can you prove a bird feeder isn't a squirrel feeder? A woman in Canada was cited for "providing sustenance for squirrels." Since neither squirrel nor bird feeding is illegal where she lives, the question is whether she is attracting vermin through her "bird feeding" habits.

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The war on squirrels

Slate recently covered the 1918 "war on squirrels" where California children were enlisted to kill ground squirrels who were responsible for the destruction of millions of dollars worth of food crops. Children enthusiastically came forth with over 100,000 squirrel tails that were captured in a week, and crops made a brief recovery.

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And in North Carolina, people are going nuts for squirrels, but not in a good way: more people than ever are seeking "pest control" services for squirrels.

But squirrels fight back

Not to be deterred by these attempts at eradication, squirrels recently attacked children in a British park, where "In one instance a child was feeding a squirrel when six others ran out from a bush and bit his hand." Six squirrels at once??? Apparently medics had to spend three hours treating the wounds.

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The Chicago alderman who suffered an injury after a squirrel  jumped into his bicycle spokes is back on duty. The accident happened shortly after he implored the city council to fight the Chicogo squirrel problem. Upon his return, he repeated his plea to "ban squirrels," although he claims it was in jest.

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Police Blotter

In Wisconsin, a woman reported that "while her 10-year-old son was waiting for a bus, a man in a car threw a $5 bill at him" -- and in other news, a squirrel was trapped in a home, made a mess and died.

A teenager who broke into a home to steal guns was thwarted by the homeowner's pet squirrel, who startled the teen and "attacked" him.

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A man dodged hitting a squirrel while driving and lost control of his Jeep, hitting a utility pole, a street sign, a tree and a flag pole. The squirrel and driver were unharmed.

The ongoing attempted murder trial for a man who shot his neighbor in the buttocks last May has been postponed to June. The incident began with an argument over squirrel feeding. The accused has stated that he thinks feeding squirrels is a way for him to commune with his dead parents.

Squirrel rescue

Although squirrels are very self-sufficient, once in a while they need our help. A man in Omaha freed a squirrel who had gotten her head stuck in a cereal box.

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In Lowell, Michigan a family found a squirrel who had been impaled by a dart. Wildlife rescue was able to capture and treat the squirrel, who is expected to survive.

A Floridian squirrel got stuck between a sliding door and the screen for almost an hour. Another squirrel stopped by to see what the heck was going on. The squirrel was eventually freed without injury.

And New York's finest took a break from policing the streets to rescue a baby squirrel who was blown from his nest!

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While I'm not a fan of squirrels as pets, this Florida family is getting chemotherapy for their pet squirrel who has breast cancer.

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Squirrels and Food

A squirrel is either commuting between NY and Philly, or each town has yet ANOTHER pizza squirrel. Boston recently laid claim to its own pizza squirrel. In case you haven't guessed, squirrels enjoy pizza.

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In Canada, a squirrel and a crow disagreed on who was going to get that last slice of pizza.

Squirrels and Sports

Baseball season is here, and perhaps you've been wondering, what's the Rally Squirrel been up to? And will he predict this year's World Series Champion?

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Power Problems

Squirrel related power outages were reported in SeattleKetchum, ID, North Lakeland, FLTerre Haute, IN, Laureldale, Pa, East Duluth, MNOntario, Canada, Williams, AZ, and Morganton NC.

A squirrel "triggered" an electrical problem, leading a nightclub in Thailand to burn down. There was no indication of what exactly the squirrel did.

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In memoriam

Students in Houston raised funds to preserve a much-loved campus squirrel with unique markings.  The cause of death of the White Tailed Squirrel is unknown, but his taxidermied body will carry on his legacy forever.

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In Kansas, students held a memorial service for Ralphy, a campus squirrel who was found dead and "didn't deserve to die."

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Hunting corner

Squirrel: It’s what for dinner

The Missouri Department of Conservation recently posted a new video on making Squirrel Sausage. Start with fifteen squirrels...

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Representatives in Mississippi recently proposed extending the squirrel hunting season, to give dogs more time to work.

And the Holley Squirrel Slam, subject of a 2015 lawsuit that was tossed, has once again been targeted. The Fire Department of Holley, NY has been advised to seek legal council after a lawsuit was filed by a local squirrel supporter. The "Slam" offers cash and other prizes to folks who bag the most squirrels on Slam Day.

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An alternative to killing: sterilization via Nutella

Gray squirrels are causing problems for the red squirrels in the UK. But folks don't want to kill mass numbers of cute gray squirrels. The possible answer? Delivery of oral contraceptives to gray squirrels via Nutella.

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Squirrels Ruin Christmas

I think squirrels just might be my totem animal. Although I am prone to Grinch-like qualities when it comes to the holidays, I have never stolen any Christmas displays. I cannot say the same about my furry rodent friends.

See, Christmas falls right around the time when squirrels have been burying a lot of food, and holiday light bulbs are strangely acorn shaped. To that end, there have been several reports of squirrels stealing and burying Christmas bulbs. One squirrel in Seattle stole over 150 light bulbs in 24 hours, and even Boston Common’s Christmas tree was affected by squirrel thefts.

Canada could not escape the influence of rodents this holiday season, and in Keene NH, a Christmas tree was blown out by a gnawing squirrel.

Karin Brulliard at the Washington Post wrote a great summary on this very topic (and I’m excited to say I got to chat with her about it).

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I did say that I don’t think squirrels have a vendetta against Christmas, but perhaps they just wish everyone would say “Happy Holidays?”

Squirrels might have ruined Christmas, but Christmas saved one squirrel. When a squirrel got stuck down a chimney, a home owner provided him with a string of Christmas lights to shimmy his way to freedom.

Power outages and fires

Twenty customers in Kansas City lost power thanks to a squirrel, but squirrels recently left over a thousand folks without power in the UK. Squirrels caused fires in Fairbury, Nebraska and Allentown, PA (subsequently leaving 7000 folks without power).

Squirrels caused outages in Odessa, TX (trigger warning: a dead squirrel is visible in the photo), Exeter, NHWallingford, CT, and caused a grass fire in West Fork, AK.

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Stuck Squirrels

This German squirrel was too large to sneak out of a manhole. Even olive oil wasn’t enough to slide this guy out, although he was eventually rescued and treated for hypothermia.

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And in Boston, this squirrel was too large for the dog bone he stuck his head into.

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This squirrel got into a squirrel-proof bird feeder, but then could not get out.

On Wiggum Drive, in Leesburg, Virginia, animal control was called to help a squirrel who got stuck in the motor of a dryer.

Finally, a couple thought they had run over a squirrel. Turned out he got stuck under the car “bonnet” and took a several-hours long ride. The squirrel was rescued and did not appear to be harmed by the hitchhiking incident.

Squirrels and the law

A squirrel scratched and bit a contractor who was working on a home in Virginia. The man has since sued the home owners for $90,000, claiming that the squirrel is their pet and that they are responsible for his behavior. The home owners claim no such ownage of the squirrel.

A few years ago, a New York lawsuit over a "squirrel slam" (basically, a squirrel killing, I mean hunting, contest) was dismissed. But recently, the state appellate court determined that Justice Punch violated the plaintiff's rights when he dismissed their case. The squirrel slam is going back to court.

Police blotter

A man got mad at his brother, and then taped a knife to his hand. Apparently intending to stab his brother, he instead went outside and stabbed a squirrel. He was charged with animal cruelty. And I can't make this stuff up!

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A mutilated squirrel was left on a Rexburg, VA doorstep, and a man was caught burning a squirrel with a propane torch in South Dakota.

One squirrel came down a chimney and couldn't find his way back out. While inside, he destroyed some Christmas lights and chewed on a Fender guitar. He burrowed into a loveseat, rendering it useless. The squirrel eventually went back outside.

When this guy took his Lexus in for a tune-up, he got more than he bargained for. A squirrel was kind enough to leave him several walnuts under the hood.

A concerned citizen contacted police in Nevada to report a squirrel who was acting very oddly before it died. There were also calls to police regarding "Christmas lights from a house ...blinding drivers passing by," "someone drinking whiskey," and that someone's "crazy girlfriend was at it again, acting up and throwing things around."

A squirrel has been brazenly walking into a convenience store and helping himself to chocolate Kinder and Crunchie bars without paying. Attempts to retrieve stolen goods by chasing the thief were not successful.

It's not clear if squirrels are deliberately trying to harm humans, but they are gnawing on trees along a freeway in Ireland, which caused several branches to fall in front of cars as they drive by. The treacherous situation led officials to cut down several hundred trees. The resulting stumps have left locals less than thrilled.

A bar in Manchester, England has been a victim of a robbery - two lamps featuring taxidermied squirrels were recently stolen, and apparently the waiting list for replacements is four months long. The owners fear the lamps (or rather the dead squirrel bodies) will be too damaged to repair.

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You can’t make this stuff up

sqshootIn 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.

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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

slateI'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!

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Appetite for Destruction

Squirrels turn off the lights

Squirrel related power outages were reported in: Greenfield, WI, Danbury, CT, Muncie, IN, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Tulsa, OK, Glenpool, OK, Lee County, TX, Columbia, SC, and Pinewood, Ontario.

But it’s not just squirrels

Other wildlife may be to blame, including possums, racoons and even the occasional bird that gets into a power substation.

Why do they do it?

Attraction to warmth and lack of traffic (which presents less of an obstacle) are factors that lead squirrels to the wires.

Fire starters

A squirrel started a fire in a garage in Traverse City, MI, losing its life in the process; and burned down a home in South Nashville.

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Urban snacking

Recently, the food habits of rodents have been all over the news. Urban animals are well adapted to living around humans in part because they are willing and able to eat our leftovers. Not to be outdone by Pizza Rat, rats’ rodent cousins, quickly made headlines for eating milkshakes and cinnamon rolls. Obviously squirrels have a sweet tooth,

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but some like tomatoes

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Power outages and other problems

Squirrel related power outages were reported in: Hutchinson, KS (800 people); Grand Rapids, MI (2000+ people); Somerset in the UK (1000 people); Spokane Valley, WA (2359 homes); and Frederick, MD (1900 homes). Squirrel also caused grass fires in Raymond, MS and Bryan, TX.

Squirrels and politics

Is that a squirrel on your head or are you just happy to see me? Bobby Jindal accuses Trump of looking like he has a squirrel on his head. Frankly, it’s a little insulting to squirrels.

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Squirrels and science

Virus discovery credited in part to squirrels

Scientists studying a seed that had apparently touched a squirrel’s nest found a new giant virus. Note: the original manuscript makes no references to squirrels, nests or seeds.

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Squirrels may need a matchmaker

Russian ground squirrels spend much of their year sleeping – and when they come out of hibernation, it’s time to mate. But apparently the squirrels are suffering from a lack of males to mate with, and the inability of those males who are around to connect with females. Time for a squirrel Tinder app?

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Endangered Red Squirrel

Once declared extinct, the red squirrel is present in the Mt. Graham area of Arizona, where researchers are currently tracking their numbers (approximately 300 individuals) and movements to better understand their behavior.

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Town gets excited about relocated squirrel statue

Folks in Olean, NY have a new 14-foot high fiberglass squirrel living in their park, one of thirty around the town.

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Dead Squirrels

Eating squirrels

I admit, I gagged a little at some of the pictures from the recent Squirrel Cook Off.

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Dog with dead squirrel

Why? I don’t know.

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Baby squirrel rescued from fire in North Carolina

A baby squirrel had been sleeping in the attack of a home that caught fire in North Carolina. As he ran out of the burning house, firefighters gave him a few hits of oxygen before sending him on his way into the wild.

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Brits once again obsessed with squirrel nuts

Yes, animals have genitals. Why this is supposed to be a source of embarrassment I’m not sure.

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Hunting accidents

A 43 year old man near “Coon Valley,” WI was shot in the shoulder by his hunting buddy while seeking out squirrels. They didn’t report on whether they bagged any squirrels before the accident.

In NY, a man was shot in the face after another hunter missed his target (a squirrel). Oops. The injuries were not life-threatening.

…and a man in Indiana shot himself in the leg while hunting squirrels.

You gotta fight for your right…to feed squirrels?

A Canadian man had received several citations for feeding squirrels. The cops even had him placed under surveillance to stop him from offering handout to local wildlife. In response, he took his claims of privacy violations all the way to the Supreme Court. He did not win.

Stuck squirrels

Squirrel stuck in gift shop

Locals expressed concern for “at least one squirrel” running around inside a gift shop in Seattle. The shop owners placed a trap in hopes of catching and releasing the squirrel.

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Squirrels stuck in trap

A Wisconsin police log reports calls of complaints after someone trapping squirrels didn’t notice that two squirrels were in the same trap…and fighting each other.

Take two pills and call me...

biteI got bitten by a squirrel eight and a half years ago. It was a very expensive bandaid. Since then, medical codes have become more specific, including one just for squirrel bites. Note: there are also now codes for orca bites and spacecraft accidents.

 

 

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Pizza rat vs. Milkshake squirrel

I love urban wildlife and the way they have adapted to exploit the resources available to them in the environment, like human food waste. This week, pizza rat and milkshake squirrel highlighted rodents' ability to carry large food items, and digest a variety of foods.

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Squirrel Disruptions

Squirrel related power-outages were reported in Verona, WI, Eagle Mountain, UT (where the squirrel was “roasted”),  Windsor, Ontario (where the squirrel survived!), and Edmond, OK.

Regina, Canada, is taking action to protect squirrels from electrocution, installing “squirrel savers” to transformers, and consequently preventing future power outages. Turns out in West Liberty, IA, costs of power outage due to squirrel are running up towards half a million dollars, and with an insurance company refusing to pay, the city has to fork out another $5K for a consultant to research the claim.

And last year in Bryan and College Station, TX, squirrels caused over 300 power outages, leaving rodents responsible for around 30% of all power outages in the area.

To add to the mix, a squirrel started a brush fire in Camas, WA.

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Urban Wildlife: Are We in a  Cognitive Arms Race?

Are efforts to thwart raccoons from breaking into compost bins sending the carnivores to new heights of intelligence? Is the term "raccoon-proof" a misnomer? Toronto tries to address their raccoon problem, bringing up issues of how we interact with the animals around us (are they pests or "urban pets"?). Excellent read.

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Speaking of urban wildlife...

Camera traps are one way to get a glimpse at elusive wildlife...and the way that scientists in New York City have been tracking the nighttime activities of the coyotes that live there. Slideshow here.

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Do too many choices make frogs irrational?

When given a choice of two mating calls, female frogs go for the low, long call: suggesting a larger male. But when a third, less "attractive" call is added to the mix, females are more likely to change preferences and approach the call they rebuffed before. Even humans sometimes make these types of "irrational choices." Read more here.

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Power outages and more

Squirrels caused people to lose their power in Grand Rapids, MI, Topeka, KS,  South Strand, SC, Grand Island, NE, North Fargo, ND, Montreal, and Signal Hill, CA, and just to stick it to the man a little bit more, squirrels took out police surveillance cameras in Newark, MD.

 

Squirrels…they’re just like us…they can:

Carry a large towel up a tree

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They can hang from their back legs (okay, we can’t do this very well)

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They do handstands!

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They sit on swings

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And sit on even more swings!

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