Columns / Discourse / April 11, 2018

This is nuts, but no laughing matter — stop playing with the squirrels

Anyone who visits Knox is aware of the abundance of squirrels on our campus. So abundant are these animals that the rodent was even in the running to be the new Knox mascot, only to be beaten out by Blaze the fox. Knox’s campus has become a haven for squirrels for many reasons, including the numerous deciduous trees which provide food and habitat, the essentially predator-free ecosystem which has been created, and perhaps most importantly, the actions of Knox students towards the animals.

Although I am happy to see wildlife such as squirrels thriving in an urban environment, I am dismayed at the attitude many Knox students display towards these wild animals. In particular, what most troubles me are the students who feed and pet the squirrels. It must be stressed that the Fox Squirrel and Eastern Grey Squirrel, who use Knox’s campus as their habitat, are wild animals. These species have evolved to compete in ecological niches in temperate forest ecosystems, yet students at Knox seem to think that the squirrels on campus should be domesticated or become pets.

On a daily basis, my friends and I see our peers attempting to pet and feed these creatures. On more than one occasion I have seen people with bags of food trying to entice these squirrels to approach. Simply put, squirrels are not pets. They are wild animals; there is no reason why someone should be trying to interact with a squirrel as if it were Fido. Although squirrels may seem cute or cuddly, this simply does not give anyone the right to interfere with a squirrel’s natural behavior. A squirrel living on our campus should not be treated as if it were a domesticated dog. Students at Knox want to befriend squirrels because they seem charismatic and because we liken them to other pets. However, I have never seen anyone on campus trying to feed a crow, an animal which is as equally undomesticated and abundant as a campus squirrel. The squirrels that live on our campus are not hamsters, guinea pigs or any other domesticated pet. Instead, student actions towards squirrels disrupt and seriously harm the natural behaviors of the animals.

Squirrels have evolved to eat nuts, tree buds and insects — not bread, cafeteria cookies, french fries, mints or any other human food. The offerings of food from people’s hands substitute the natural diet of the animal. It is not farfetched to assume that these wild animals will become dependent on hand-fed food from students. The squirrels may lose their evolutionary fitness and natural behaviors. Squirrels seem to associate humans with food. Many students have recounted stories of squirrels pursuing them in the search of food. I have been approached by squirrels countless times, even though I have never fed a squirrel in my life.

We feed our pets because they are inept in providing for themselves. However, these squirrels are not pets and are fully capable of surviving without human assistance. The actions of a few students have impacted the entire student body; today, campus squirrels have no fear of people. This is not natural. Squirrels remain wild animals and have wild instincts; even when you may believe you are helping an animal in distress you may be harming it. The squirrel can even harm you (a squirrel bit a student on campus this year). If you believe you are helping the squirrels by giving them food or affection you are living in a fallacy. Wild animals do better without human interference. By inserting oneself into the natural life cycle of a wild animal you are thereby disrespecting the creature. Keeping one’s distance from the squirrels is for the betterment of both the creature and the person. If you want to protect wildlife I suggest you support organizations such as the Nature Conservancy or World Wildlife Fund. And if you want to have a pet I would suggest adopting one from a local animal shelter.



Tags:  environment Knox campus squirrels

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1 Comment

Apr 12, 2018

2016-12-14 Squirrely problem: Bushy-tailed bandits repeated cause of power outages
I’m pretty sure this story could have been done in just about any small
town in the US but most reporters are too lazy to do this much research
and there is no compelling reason for electric company workers to
volunteer this information because repairing squirrel damage is a huge
source of income to them..

It is now estimated there are now over 500 million grey squirrels in this
country and they are now suspected of having a role in the transmission
of lyme disease !!!

My solution is below.

I used to use the Havahart 1030 but I have upgraded to the 1083
and now have 3 of them. It only has 1 door which makes it much shorter
and I thus need a much smaller tropical fish tank to drown them in.
This is the most humane way I have found to dispose of grey squirrels
and I try and keep the water reasonably clean. The smaller tank uses
less water. But most importantly 1-door traps are also easier to bait
because the squirrel can only enter from 1 direction so the bait only
needs to be behind the walk-on platform. You don’t have to “balance”
the mechanism the bait sits on, so the 1083 is also a much faster trap
to bait.

Squirrels hunt for food by smell and birds hunt for food via their eyes
and you need to consider that when baiting a trap or birds will steal
a high percentage of food. I use peanut butter on a 1″ x 1″ X 5″ scrap
of wood and some of the peanut butter is facing down so the birds
can’t see it but the squirrels can still smell it.

“Havahart 1083 Easy Set One-Door Cage Trap for Squirrels and Small Rabbits”
This trap cost me approx $33 but it is a much better solution for grey squirrels.
Squirrels are becoming a major problem in this country and part
of the problem is a lunatic fringe that insists on feeding & protecting
rodents that happen to look a little cuter than rats.

Both of my neighbors have had squirrels invade their attics and
sustained damage to their homes. I have thus trapped and killed
135 squirrels on my small property since June-2014 and we still have
plenty more to replace them. I then feed the carcass to the fox and
hawks in a nearby woods. Win-Win

I like to think this causes predators/scavengers to hunt rabbits
and other small game less frequently.

email me with questions

Bill Z
devilsadvacat at gmail dot com

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