The Secret Squirrel Service

I CAN HAS PARDON?There are two kinds of squirrel in Washington, DC—the kind you vote for, and the kind you don’t. And a recent Washington Post article traces the fascinating history of America’s fuzziest bureaucrats and their love/hate relationship with our nation’s capital.

Hunted to near-extinction by the start of the 1900’s, squirrels were imported into DC by civic leaders hoping to add charm to city parks.

By the 1950’s, the squirrels held a veto-proof majority, brazenly devouring plants and digging up gardens, including the private putting green of President Eisenhower. But Washingtonians love them all the same; reached for comment, a representative of the Squirrel Lobby said "Eep."

Comments

  1. AuntieMame says:

    Where are his little black sunglasses and his tie and walkie talkie? Or is he scouting incognito?

  2. eikoleigh says:

    He looks like a prowler…. Does he have authorization to be there??? HMMMMM?!

  3. Boomer's Babysitter says:

    My college campus in upstate NY was overrun with squirrels and chipmunks. They’re devious little devils and can get into the strangest places… a belltower above the 6th floor of a dormitory?! Why? To chase the geese away, of course…

  4. Must be the Obama skrrl from a few days ago, scouting out his office in the West Wing…

  5. A few years ago DC was having a problem with Beaver’s chewing on the cherry trees. The wild life in DC is very active.

  6. knightofmonarch says:

    Hey – It’s fall, and I’m here to gather nuts . This looks like a good place to start !

  7. rorschach says:

    Better hope the snipers don’t get him for being on the wrong side of the fence.

  8. (The Original) Mel says:

    DC is surprisingly wooded. Also, the sqerlz are bold. They walk up to you on the mall and ask you for a dollar.

  9. it’s so true! they are everywhere, and remarkably friendly. until about 2 months ago, i worked on capitol hill for a congressman, and this summer i met a new sqwerl friend… he would meet me for lunch every other day at 1 pm at a bench outside my office building, and i would share my sandwich with him. i would hold out a little piece and he would grab my fingers with his paws as he took the offering. repeat for about 20 minutes. i can’t tell you how many tourists would walk by on their way to see the capitol building and stop to take our picture! i wouldn’t be surprised in the least if a pic of us showed up on cuteoverload!

  10. @ knightofmonarch – LOL! Excellent point! Maybe these squirrels are smarter than we think.

  11. ew. Can you say “rabies”….

  12. Yup he’s gathering nuts! Cute squirrel though!

  13. I’m voting squirrel this election! Power to the paws!

  14. Did you see the one about the squirrel speaking to the rat about the value of a fuzzy tail?

  15. jen in dc says:

    i think our black squirrels are cooler than the grey squirrels. how many of you have ever seen a black squirrel?

    i heard the black squirrels originally escaped from the zoo (though the article says they were “released”). i wish some pandas would escape (or be released) and proliferate throughout all the parks and backyards in the area.

  16. ThreeCatNight says:

    “It’s like I said to President Bush, ‘Nuts to you!’ You don’t play with me, man, because the paw won’t understand!”

  17. momof2kitties says:

    @jen in dc:
    We have teh black sqwerls in Michigan. And red. And grey. They’s EVERYWHERE. Makes my kittehs nuts. heh.

  18. We live about 30 miles from DC, and I have only ever seen 1 black sqwerlio here!! In fact, it was a few weeks ago, after we moved, and I almost stopped the car because I had to make sure of what it was!!

  19. It was hard to believe that there was a time when DC had no squirrels, so some were released, and government employees were assigned to feed them. Now Lafayette Park has the highest squirrel density ever recorded, and they just about climb up your trousers, go through your wallet, take a couple of twenties, and hit the sidewalk vendors….

    Construction of a new Smithsonian museum some years ago turned up a fox den, and stray deer from Rock Creek Park show up near there as well.

    (MV, rodents aren’t much of a rabies threat; nor are possums. Mostly raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats, and which one predominates depends on your area.)

  20. On the Maryland side of DC, there are a lot of black squirrels in Cheverly, and I think some white ones in Olney. Don’t know if we’d get pintos if they joined up, but did once see a pearl-gray one with bluish eyes.

  21. Stressfactor says:

    What an agent, what a squirrel
    He’s got the country in a whirl.
    What’s his name?
    Shhh…Secret Squirrel.
    He’s got tricks, up his sleeve,
    Most bad guys, won’t believe.
    A bullet proof coat, a cannon hat,
    A machine gun cane with a rat tat tat tat.

    Fights foreign spies
    In his disquise,
    Takes him many places,
    He’s a squirrel of many faces,
    Who’s that?
    Who’s that?
    Who’s that?
    Shhh…Secret Squirrel.

    Now… where’s Morocco Mole?

  22. Not That Mike The Other Mike says:

    @Stressfactor: I will see your “Secret Squirrel” lyrics, and raise you the video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fFUraEWK5g

    :-D

  23. Yay for Nat’l squirrel awareness week. Give ‘em a nut.

  24. momof2kitties says:

    Maybe this little guy can help us find Berthaservant. Anybody seen him lately?

  25. being a DC resident and huge squirrel fan – i absolutely loved the WaPo’s news feature — and that photo is amazing :) I love seeing squirrels out and about in DC.

  26. Troost&Frankie's Mom says:

    I have a funny story about DC squirrels. My boyfriend was feeding Cheetos to a squirrel outside the White House and when the squirrel dropped one, he reached over to pick it up and hand it back to him, but the squirrel thought he was trying to steal it, so he lunged at him and made a threatening little squirrely yelp.

    The moral of this story: Don’t get between a tough city squirrel and his cheetos. You’ll be sorry.

  27. I swear, the squirrels aren’t afraid of people anymore. I was in New England last year, and squirrels kept coming right up to me, watching me and waiting…for food, no doubt.

  28. Couldn’t we elect THIS guy to the White House? We’d have no more wars and everyone would have nuts.

    Oh,I can’t believe I just said that.

  29. Jmuhj — I doubt he’d meet the minimum age requirement, but otherwise…

  30. I feel so much better that Mr. sqwerl is guarding teh White House!

  31. Gail (the first one) says:

    We only have gray ones in my neck of the woods (NW of Chicago).

    There was a story on CBS Sunday Morning awhile back about some areas in England being overwhelmed with squirrels (who were imported and not native) and the efforts to reduce the herd, so to speak.

  32. I was visiting my parents last week in a suburb of DC, and there were several black squirrels in their neighborhood. (And chipmunks!)

    The squirrels in Boston are super aggressive. I had one put his paws all over my shopping bag, looking for a treat!

  33. I work in downtown DC and sometimes walk past the White House. Sometimes I see a squirrel inside the fence looking out at the tourists very sternly, ready to repel invaders. For some reason the phrase “Federal Squirrel” always pops into my head.

  34. hurray for the Qte giving me history lessons :) & so here’s a zoological one:

    the squirrels in DC are almost all the same colour because of genetics & climate. all the black, grey, and large red squirrels are in fact Grey Squirrels by species. the black colour variation occurs more frequently at higher elevations, in nothern & colder climates. we have them almost exclusively in Northern Ontario, & rarely see the grey or rufus (red) phases. Southern Ontario has a healthy mix of all three colours, but head much further south & it’s almost all the red-grey variety :) i suspect the ones in Washington were brought from further south, making them have more red genes in the pool than normal @ that latitude/elevation.

  35. True story:

    In high school, I trekked to D.C. for a student journalist conference. During a free stretch, we went to the White House, gawked at the Capitol, and then traipsed about the Botanical Gardens. Not only are their purdy plants in there (including a banana tree, I recall), but there were cute lil’ squirrels EVERYWHERE. I happened to have a lil’ bag of peanuts in my purse, so I shared with an especially adorkable one a few minutes before we went outside.

    There must’ve been some sort of secret underground squirrel-com network, because one squirrel I encountered on the Mall definitely knew I was packing. That bugger ran up to me, ran UP my pantleg, and proceeded to latch onto my denim purse (it was 1989–sue me). I shook the purse frantically, every which way, windmilled it around my head, and that thing would NOT let go. I finally dropped the purse and watched it sniff–then scamper away.

  36. Jen in DC, we have tons of black squirrels up here in New York (and New Haven). I work at a botanical garden and we have black and gray everywhere (also digging up my front lawn at home). I was told they originated here and spread, but heck, maybe everyone claims them!

    We never saw them when I was a kid (long long time ago!) and 10 years ago they were unusual. Now they are common. I like both colors, but chipmunks are still my favorites.

    And Troost&Frankie’s Mom, I feel that way about cheetos too!

  37. Hey! I sent this in! I imagine I’m not the only one, though…there may just be more than one person who reads both the Washington Post *and* Cute Overload.

  38. The coolest squirrels I have seen are the two albinos in the park next to us. Fur white as snow, and they tend to not come oout until evening.

  39. Thats the little git!!! I was bitten by a squirrel at that very spot about eight years ago. I can see he is still prowling the boundaries!!

  40. jackie31337 says:

    A friend of mine was in the special forces a while back, and he said his unit referred to the government spooks that showed up from time to time as “secret squirrels”. I’ll have to share this with him :)

  41. jen in dc says:

    @ AmyJ: no way jose! i grew up outside of new haven and i never once saw a black squirrel! but i admit i haven’t spent much time back in the CT in the past 15 years. these are crazy crazy times we are living in.

  42. Jen in DC – I was living there about five years ago and there were definitely black squirrels! Not as common as in NY, so it was still an event to see one. Black squirrels seem to be spreading and increasing in numbers – wonder why? Maybe black is sexy in squirrel world?

    Does anyone else hear Mission Impossible music when they look at Mr. Secret Squirrel Service?

  43. darkshines says:

    He was disappointed when he found out President Bush was, in fact, a man.

  44. darkshines says:

    I just realsied that joke could be seen as dirty, I was going for a tree angle actually.

  45. yep, I live in VA, about 10 min down the GW parkway from DC, and we have lots of black squirrels..and gray ones, and red ones, and foxes, and deer, owls, eagles, coyotes, possums, beavers, vultures, raccoons and on and on…all of which I’ve seen in my backyard. We’re overrun! But they’re all so cute. Well, not the vultures…

  46. I saw black squirrels when I was in DC.

  47. Not everybody loves de skwerls, but I see a lot of you guys do. Me too! I love the way they run across the ground as if leaping a series of tiny hurdles.

  48. Hmph. All politicians say “eep”.

  49. There are squirrels on campus at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa – those things are evil. They will chase you when you walk across the quad, and more than once they’ve had them get into the power grid and cause blackouts all over the campus. I’ve seen the chasing myself – my cousin goes to school there, and when I was visiting, we had a rogue squirrel stalk us across the quad. It’s almost creepy.

  50. Jen in DC — yes, the ninja squirrels most definitely own DC. I hadn’t heard that they escaped from the zoo, but I definitely know they are high in population at the zoo!!

    Man I love the zoo.

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