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The Start of Spring…and More Squirrels

March 8, 2011

Back to more squirrely-goodness courtesy of the Washington Post, this weekend John Kelly gave us a nice column about urban and suburban squirrels. Joel Brown, a professor at the University of Illinois’ Chicago campus, studies squirrels, and lives in an old, leafy suburb of the city, full of (not surprisingly) squirrels. Like we’ve discussed in a previous post, squirrels were not always the ubiquitous residents of cities that they are now — people used to hunt them, and they were seen as competitors for backyard vegetable gardens, which were less of a hobby and more of a necessity in many households a hundred years ago. As Dr. Brown says, the squirrel’s population boom is really a “reflection of our socioeconomic status.”

I especially like this article because Dr. Brown is a strong supporter of my belief that our culture tends to separate nature and human-built environments, at least in our heads (see this previous post for an earlier discussion). As he says, people tend to think that “Nature is national parks in pristine environments,” while animals such as squirrels, who live closely with people, tend to be “tainted by association” — they aren’t really wildlife because they live in areas deemed not natural.

He goes on: “A lot of us realized that our pristine environments aren’t nearly as pristine as we thought they were, what with pollution and minor land use. And, wow, our urban areas and residential areas aren’t nearly as sterile as we thought…We live in an urban game park. And squirrels, at least in the East and Midwest, I would suggest, are probably the most conspicuous part of that urban game park. Everybody has a squirrel story.”

As for the start of spring? Tonight on my way home I passed my first cherry blossoms of the year,

(c) M. Draheim

in the form of four young trees just off of Massachusetts Avenue. A certain sign of spring in DC! Also, some of our daffodils are just about ready to bloom in our front yard, as you can see here. So Happy March, everyone!

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