Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Midnight in the garden of evil

I stopped by Peter Cooper Village to see how things were going in the garden of evil. The place looks beautiful now, in the early Spring. The grounds are manicured. Not a peanut in sight.  Not a squirrel in sight.

But the foulest stench pervades the entire park. They've started spreading that awful fertilizer on everything again. It's a mixture of poop smell and chemicals that makes me gag and start getting a headache and feeling nauseous. I can't stay there long, I have to exit the property. Don't others have this reaction and complain? Oh yeah, these are the people who voted against the squirrels, so you already know they're out of touch with reality. I's particularly beautiful time this time of year, but without the smells to go along with the sights it's a sort of travesty. There should be the delightful smell of trees and grass in the air, but instead there's the sickening odor of poopy doo. And what about the squirrels? Does anybody think about them? No, of course not. They have to smell that crap all day and all night long. And they have to dig in that crap. Oh that's right, there's nothing to dig for anymore.
Sittin' by the side of the trash
On top of that, they are wondering where their next meal is coming from.
A squirrel's life has become a nightmare, as I see it. Please tell me I'm wrong. 
open sores

This little one came out to greet me on the sidewalk, so I threw him a peanut from the stash I carry with me now in case I run into a stray squirrel on the sidewalk outside of PCV. He has open scabs now. When I started feeding him he had a little bit of mange that would easily be cured with good nutrition. Now that I no longer feed him, he's looking worse.

It's so cruel, so sad. But they got what they wanted. It's midnight for the squirrels.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Killer Squirrels!

The squirrel that roared

Excuse me, ma'am, didn't you get the email?

Actually I didn't.

We're not supposed to feed the squirrels.

Why not?

Because they're dangerous. They attack and they bite people.

Oh wow, really?

Yes, there have been lots of stories.

Oh I see. They're going to KILL us! They'll KILL US ALL!
Better that we should kill them before they have a chance to kill us. A good dose of old-fashioned starvation should take care of that nicely.

When will people get it into their thick skulls that squirrels are prey, not predators? These delicate, sensitive little creatures are scared of their own shadow. Ever tried to pet a squirrel?  Rustle a plastic bag and they jump sky-high. I've been feeding squirrels for years and I can attest to the fact that they have not become more aggressive, contrary to what we're hearing lately. Squirrels are total wimps. They prefer to keep their distance. They're after that peanut, and they'd greatly prefer it if you threw it down on the ground a good distance away. Trust me, they have no desire to get up close and personal with you.

I have seen children taunting squirrels by sticking their fingers out when they have nothing to feed them. It's possible that a squirrel could mistake a pudgy finger for a peanut and bite at it. But that's a case of mistaken identity, not an attack. And that can be easily remedied with a little education, teaching young children not to point their fingers at squirrels.
All I want is the peanut
The mass hysteria going around right now about malevolent squirrels is very sad because it affects their very lives. All it would take to combat this would be some basic education.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Bill to Ban the Ban on Squirrel & Bird Feeding

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Long Goodbye

Farewell, my lovelies!

It will take time to say goodbye to you.

So far I can still go over to Peter Cooper Village, even though a nasty female guard escorted me off the property the other day. But today when I went over to see how the squirrels were doing, I was approached by another guard who seemed more understanding and even apologetic, saying that he only came over because he received a call from a resident. So this is what it has come to: as the good residents of Peter Cooper Village are out walking their precious dogs that pee and poop all over the walkways, they're also acting as spies and informants, turning me in to the local gestapo.

What's going on right now is pretty scary. There's a certain feeling in the air that seems to be catching on. Squirrels have turned into monsters.

The other day I heard a boy who was playing on the green that the squirrels inhabit (you could say it's part of their "habitat" as one guard puts it) and he kept yelling loudly, "STUPID SQUIRRELS!"

Then yesterday a few teenage girls were walking by and I heard one of them talking about how "A squirrel attacked me!" Really???

I keep hearing about squirrels jumping into baby carriages and biting children.

I see people stop in their tracks and deliberately distance themselves by carefully walking around the squirrels, giving them a wide berth.

I hear people cautioning their children to not get too close to the squirrels.

I see little children frowning at squirrels.

Are any of these fears founded? It's worth mentioning that New York City squirrels have been given a clean bill of health by city health inspectors. There has never been a case of rabies in New York City squirrels.

I'd also add that the squirrels I see and interact with are not aggressive. As prey animals, not predators, they tend to be very shy and nervous, jumping at the slightest sound, even at the rustling of a plastic bag. For the most part, they will politely wait for you to throw them a peanut. If it is not forthcoming they will attempt to communicate with you by looking at the ground, pawing it a bit, then looking up at you, then looking down at the ground again. It's like, "You know what you're supposed to do!" Now that is hardly what I'd call aggressive behavior.

The squirrels must stay in their habitat (behind the fences) or they will be a discomfort of the good residents of Peter Cooper Village. Reminds me a little of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds".

As for the squirrels, it hasn't dawned on them yet what's hit them.

As for myself, I never guessed it would be so hard on me. I've begun to realize that all the time I thought I was doing the squirrels a favor by feeding them, they were actually functioning as emotional support animals.  They were my therapy squirrels! I had become so bonded to the daily ritual of  interacting with them, that cutting the cord is coming as a real shock.

And, of course, they were the focus of this blog. But the world as we knew it has changed. Whether this blog will continue is now in doubt, but for the present, I'll be posting a few thoughts as I start saying my long goodbye.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

April Showers

A hard rain's gonna fall. It was no April Fool's joke, Peter Cooper Village has decided to ban the feeding of squirrels. I went over there today to test the waters and was immediately confronted by a guard -- the same guard who had told me to "only feed the squirrels in their habitat" was now telling me that I couldn't feed them at all. I said fine, and went about my business. I was actually looking for my pet, Gray Momma, who has not been doing well recently, and did not make an appearance today.

Gray Momma

While I was looking for her I was not feeding squirrels, but a PCV resident came by and started feeding them. She told me that as long as there were no guards around, she'd continue to feed them. I warned her that she still had to be careful because there are quite a few "good citizens" around who will call a guard and report you in a heartbeat. I told her that she might have to go under cover. We joked around and talked about the idea of setting up an underground network of feeders.

Then as I started towards the exit gate, I saw the same guard that had approached me earlier, standing by the gate,legs wide apart in a combative stance. He'd been watching me! Now he was coming after me even though I'd done nothing wrong. I told him that I hadn't been feeding the squirrels since he told me not to. He said that feeding squirrels was now against the law in the city and state of New York. And he said it almost triumphantly. I told him that even if that were the case, and I'm not sure it is, the law would only apply to city parks, not to private property. But I think PCV may be trying to cash in a trend, taking advantage of the prevailing zeitgeist to push their own plan through.

Perhaps thinking I didn't believe him, the guard asked if I wanted to see the flyer.  I said, sure, show me the flyer. So he called up someone who apparently did not have the so-called flyer, but I overheard them telling him that there was a 30-day grace period during which the guards were only to issue warnings, not take any action.

When I confronted him with that he kind of lost his momentum and melted away. But in his place was another, nastier guard, who began following me around on a scooter, harassing me. I'm pretty sure this was the same guard who had told me not so long ago that it was okay to feed the squirrels as long as I stayed away from the playgrounds,which I agreed to, feeling as guilty as a pedophile. She of course denied saying that. So surely it was probably another female guard who just looked and sounded like her.

I told her that I had not been feeding squirrels today and that even if I had, there was a 30-day grace period before they were supposed to take any action. I guess she didn't being challenged, because she said that the "grace period" was only for residents, so did not apply to me, and therefore she was escorting me off the property.

Me: But I didn't do anything.  I'm not even feeding squirrels!
She: But the squirrels are following you around because they know you.

So that was the rationale for booting me off the premises -- not for feeding the squirrels, but for exciting them, for putting impure thoughts of peanuts into their little heads! Thought crimes!

When I refused to leave, she kept following me around. When I sat down on a bench to rest, she parked her scooter nearby. When I finally did get up to go, she followed me all the way to the gate. As I exited the park, I noticed two heavyweights -- and I do mean heavy -- big guys sitting in a scooter built for two on the sidewalk outside the gate.  One of them looked me in the eye and asked: "How are you doing today?"

Was this the backup? They then drove through the gate and stopped their vehicle to talk to the guard on the scooter who was still watching me.
Black Momma

My precious Black Momma, who is extremely smart, had figured out that something not quite kosher was going on, and had followed me out to the sidewalk. I thought it was safe to feed her out here, as I was not on private property or in a city park. So I did. And she ate. But I could tell she was nervous.

After about ten minutes I looked over and saw the two "bigwigs" still conferring with the guard. They were having a long conversation about something. You'd think from all the commotion and cornering going on, that they were dealing with some kind of domestic terrorist threat, not someone who had been caring for the squirrels at PCV for over ten years.

This was a sad day for Peter Cooper Village. It was a sad day for the City of New York. It was a sad day for the squirrels.  And it was a sad day for me.

Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner's face is always well-hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my song well before I start singin'
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

Monday, April 1, 2019

April Fool!

A light case of mange

On the whole it's been a good winter for the squirrels here, and most have survived nicely. I can recall winters when that was not the case -- winters when we'd find young squirrels frozen to death, and many squirrels with ugly sores that weren't healing well. If you go back through my blog you can see some of those sad cases in the past. That was the way it was when I first started feeding squirrels here. What we're seeing now is a few youngsters who need some extra care, but it's nothing that a little nutrition won't cure. I've been focusing on a few of these little guys who are just not that good yet at competing with the bigger squirrels for food. They almost have to be hand-fed.


 I also have my eye on my sweet pet, the gray mother squirrel that I call "Queen of the Oranges", who seems to be not doing that well right now. I saw her today for the first time in three days, and tried to fill her up with as much food as possible.  She seems a bit shaky, and I'm wondering if she has arthritis.  I honestly don't know why all squirrels don't have arthritis, given their harsh living conditions.

Mama squirrel, "The Orange Queen"

As you can imagine, I was none too pleased to be informed by one of the security guards that "as of today there will be no more feeding of squirrels or birds, under penalty of a lease violation."

I waited for "April Fool!"
Alas, it was not forthcoming.

I'm so worried about the squirrels that need that extra little bit of help right now. I can't abandon them!

But come to think of it, I've been receiving mixed messages from management. About a month ago a guard came over and told me: "We don't mind if you feed the squirrels, just don't do it near any of the playgrounds." And then a few weeks ago another guard said: "Just make sure you do this -- (he made a throwing gesture) -- keep them in their habitat." So maybe it was April Fool! There seems to be a general fear of squirrels in the air. I've watched as people stop in their tracks, afraid to move forward if a couple of squirrels are in their path.  It's almost like Alfred Hitchcock's "The Squirrels". And then there are the boys that yell at the squirrels saying things like "Stupid squirrels!" To that I say, stupid boys!
New York City would also like to outlaw feeding squirrels and pigeons in the public parks. A rule breaker could face a $50 fine, and the possibility of a day in jail, or additional fine up to $200. 

The reason? Feeding squirrels and birds feeds the rats, they say. But rats don't eat peanuts or bird seed. And besides, the squirrels don't leave edibles lying around: they immediately vacuum the area, and what they don't scarf down gets buried. The remains -- empty peanut shells - would be useless to rats. Rats eat "people food" out of trash cans. Maybe the real solution is to ban people from eating in public parks.

 Another argument given is that animals should be able to find their own food. Now that may be true of big parks like Central Park that have lots of woods, but the smaller public parks offer little in the way of squirrel food. In the fall at Peter Cooper Village you'll see some acorns falling from the few oak trees here, but that's not enough to sustain the entire squirrel population through the fall and winter. Come spring, there are buds on trees, but that's about it and they don't last long. They're salad for squirrels, but where's the sirloin? As the saying goes, where's the beef

PCV parks are private property, so city rules don't apply there, but it's possible that they're putting their own nefarious plans in place.  If so, God help the squirrels!