About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How squirrels were introduced into the neighborhood

Photo by Marc Steensma

You can blame urban planners for the introduction of squirrels into the neighborhood. It’s hard to imagine, but in the 1800’s squirrels were shy little woodland creatures that supplied meat for frontiersmen and Indians. Overhunting and clearcutting the land for development nearly decimated nesting populations.

Then as cities developed and people moved away from caring for farm animals, public green areas were developed. Numerous naturalists, zoo directors, educators, park designers, and poets persuaded the public of the squirrels' value as members of the urban community. Because squirrels appeared to be responsive to human charity, they held a special place in the community. And by the early twentieth century, Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) had become the most visible non-domesticated mammals in American cities. The arboreal rodents were protected, sheltered, and fed by the humans who treated them as public pets.

The urbanization of the squirrels in the United States between the mid-nineteenth century and the early twentieth century was an ecological and cultural process that changed the squirrels' ways of life, altered the urban landscape, and adjusted human understandings of nature, the city, and the boundaries of community. Even the East Lansing black squirrels were introduced in the 1960s at the request of MSU President John A. Hannah to add character to the campus. They have now spread widely past the campus borders to bring their natural charm to your neighborhood (which I hear about daily).

Sources: 
The Urbanization of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in the U.S: http://jah.oxfordjournals.org
Black Squirrel History at MSU: http://goo.gl/k1H1p5

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