Sing a Song of Squirrels


“Many years ago in the ’60s,
Black squirrels of London
Were exported far away,
To Kent State University
Where they populate today…”

Song lyrics explain the common denominator two cities share in the black squirrel’s population equation. On Ric Wallace’s Web site, Wallace packs information on his hometown of London, Ontario (the Forest City), Kent, Ohio (the Tree City), and squirrels – which have become good luck charms for Wallace.
The black, bushy-tailed rodents are now a Kent icon initiating the creation of cute merchandise that entices frivolous shoppers like me (stuffed toys and jewelry), and adds local color – the name Black Squirrel for a radio station, a pub and who knows what else. A Black Squirrel Festival is held every fall at KSU.
Flourishing at Kent since the early ’60s (sings the song), black squirrels began breeding in Ohio when Larry Wooddell, superintendent (at the time) of KSU’s 500 acre grounds, brought them to the area from London, Ontario. Considered a color phase of the common gray squirrel family, the black strain seems dominant as it has interbred and spread in all directions.
Seeing them in Lisbon, Ohio, frolicking near our church parking lot, I wasn’t surprised to hear friend Elizabeth Peterson talk of the furry friends on her wooded lot in town.
“What do they eat?” she wondered. She noted a squirrel holding something large and long in its front paws.
Though we knew they favor corn, she emphasized that this was not a corn cob. We puzzled over a squirrel’s diet, talking squirrels after I told Josie’s squirrel story.
Walking across the Kent campus between classes, Jo was rushed by a black squirrel. The charge came so unexpectedly, like an ambush, that she cried out. Then as onlookers embarrassed her with their attention, the furry black aggressor, who had temporarily disappeared, rushed again – this time, right across her shoes! With another surprised cry, she fled the scene.
The humor of her story sparked my interest in the squirrel situation. Exploring a KSU Web site, I learned that: “In addition to acclimatization, [the squirrels] have become accustomed to the heavy traffic of students on the KSU campus.” and “Aggression is one of the characteristics commonly attributed to the squirrels (they will target you).”
Well, Josie, “Bull’s-eye!” It’s a good thing you didn’t wait around for the third time’s charm; that squirrel might have climbed you like a tree.
Like your friend Neal said, “You need to learn to embrace nature, Josie.” …
“Or carry a big stick.”

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