Berkeley squirrels are known for their friendly demeanor and cleverness. They can charm your chips right from your salty fingers, leaving you empty-handed and hungry but gleeful nonetheless at the adorable way they scampered off with your lunch. Recent news has now shown that their Pringles extortion is not the only thing they’re up to. Squirrels are also digging up the clay cap that guards harmful chemicals inside a former hazardous waste site in Cesar Chavez Park.
One proposed solution to this issue was the extermination of the squirrels, but Berkeley recently passed an ordinance that punishes people who feed squirrels on public property with a hefty fine of $1,000 instead.
Squirrels can do their own grocery shopping. Feeding wild animals such as squirrels with your Top Dog leftovers doesn’t provide the nutrients squirrels get in their natural diet. Sarah Jameson from the Bay Area’s WildCare organization told us all about how feeding squirrels can lead to a number of issues.
“Things like bread are unnatural treats for wild animals and can cause some wild animal to reproduce more,” Jameson said.
According to Jameson, leftover food given to the animals that isn’t eaten ends up being eaten by rodents and bugs that can carry diseases.
When local animal activist Kitty Jones learned of the new ordinance, she said feeding the squirrels “can potentially make them put down their guard around people, which can be dangerous for their safety.” By losing their fear of humans and crowding around places where people will feed them, such as parks, our furry friends can turn into nuisances or violent, rabies-ridden monsters that never leave. This type of dependence on humans leaves squirrels dependent on handouts, rather than their natural instincts that they need for survival.
In an effort to steer away from a squirrel apocalypse, be sure to keep your pet food indoors and clean up after yourself when visiting parks and other public places.
Contact Lucy Tate at [email protected].