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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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.

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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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