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Does Anyone Care about New York City’s Squirrels?

You might think that anyone who counts squirrels in a park must be nuts, but that's what more than 300 volunteers spent 11 days doing in 2018 in one of the busiest parks in the world: Manhattan's Central Park. At its conclusion, the first-ever Central Park Squirrel Census determined that 2,373 eastern gray squirrels call the 840-acre park home. The purpose of the project wasn't just to force folks to take a walk in the park. As project founder Jamie Allen explained, despite sharing common spaces with people for more than 150 years, the squirrel is not very well understood in terms of behavior and biology, yet it manages to thrive in a place as bustling as Manhattan. According to the final results, while the squirrels were found pretty much everywhere in the park, 72 percent were spotted on the ground, including one waiting patiently beside a nut-selling street vendor. Allen said that while the census was the first of its kind, there may be more squirrel investigations to come. "We do it for you," he told National Geographic. "We do it for the city. We do it for the squirrels, because it makes us happy."

The scoop on squirrels:

  • The University of Richmond says that squirrels can lose almost three-quarters of their food stashes, through forgetfulness, thievery, and other reasons.
  • There are 285 species of squirrel around the world, living on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
  • In 2007, Iran "arrested" 14 squirrels near a nuclear enrichment plant, accusing them of spying.
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