The squirrels deserve our respect
Re: “Are Stuyvesant Town’s squirrels getting more aggressive?”, T&V story, July 14
To the Editor:
No, they have not gotten more aggressive. People sit on the Oval grass and café and I never see a squirrel anywhere. Why? Because they don’t want to be harassed. Yes, they do look to be fed. Yes, they will come up to people, walking by, but only to see if they will be fed. Just walk away and ignore them and they will leave. Don’t continue to look back because they think you changed your mind.
I realized there is a misguided ignorance in regard to the wildlife that needs to be addressed. And I hope that I can instill some understanding on this matter. I have lived in Stuyvesant Town for 26 years and have taken care of the squirrels in this area. I have also worked as a Defender Wildlife Caretaker, and with the Wildlife Rehabilitators for 25 years and provided for the wildlife’s needs. I would like to help share my knowledge and help others to understand the squirrels better.
First of all, the squirrels do not bite or “attack” people unless, like other animals (or humans), they feel cornered and feel threatened with abuse. Their first and foremost instinct is to run away and climb a tree for safety. Second, when feeding a squirrel, do not feed them out of your hand. You throw the nut. Parents should not allow their children to chase after or try to give the squirrels nuts because the squirrels can get confused and think the finger is a peanut. Third, squirrels are not rabid but can get rabies like other animals or people if bitten by a rabid animal. Fourth, when squirrels come up to people with their front paws in the air, they are begging. When they sniff your shoes, they are saying “hello.” Fifth, when a squirrel hops after people and prances around them, they are not attacking but frolicking with enthusiasm in receiving a nut and vying for a position to be the squirrel to get the offering. If you ignore them and walk away, they may follow for a short time, but will go away to their next adventure.
I’d like to add as a defender of the wildlife that the squirrels are the ones who are abused. I’ve seen youngsters chase, throw stones, sticks, snowballs and use peashooters at the squirrels. I have also found squirrels that have been poisoned.
The squirrels have to deal with hawks, plus stray cats and dogs that are around the area. In the winter, they don’t have leaves to build their nests and must find other means to do so. I’ve found squirrels frozen to death. It’s not an easy life for them, as people may think.
The squirrels have been here since the complex was built. The state and city makes laws and there is no law that forbids the feeding of nuts to squirrels. I have checked with the Health Department and the police department and there is no law nor health hazard in giving nuts to squirrels.
Corporations can say they would prefer you not do this or that but do not make the laws. And if children were bitten by squirrels, they would have to go to the hospital and the hospital would have to notify the Health Department so they would have a record of it. None have been reported so far.
Now, I love animals. I love dogs and yet there was a dog that jumped on me and snapped at me. They aren’t considered a wildlife animal. The owner had the dog on a leash. No matter what, you must always show animals respect, whether they are domestic or wildlife. And understand that sometimes just a gesture with one’s hand or body can cause an animal to feel like they are being threatened. I give squirrels nuts as a thank you for being a part of my life. Giving a treat, as long as it is not overdone, during the warm months.
In the winter, food is sparse with trees bare. I give more than a treat. I enjoy nature and its wildlife and also enjoy interacting with them. Nature and its wildlife are a gift from God for us humans to appreciate.
I hope this information helps people to understand squirrels and gives some insight so that humans and wildlife can coexist in peace.
If anyone would like to know more about squirrels, here are websites to peruse.
Eleanor S., ST
About that ‘bushy-tailed beasts’ letter
Just three things I feel compelled to mention about the recent spate of letters in response to the original article, “Are Stuyvesant Town Squirrels getting more aggressive?” (T&V, July 14).
First, thank you Judith Swearingen for your letter (“A response to some squirrely letters,” T&V, Aug. 11) clearing me of the “utter cruelty charge” lodged against my modest proposal for a swift solution to the “squirrel problem” (in my letter, “Bushy tailed beasts have taken over,” T&V, July 21). My neighbors are no longer afraid of getting into the elevator with me and have resumed friendly chats.
Second, Joseph Krist’s earnest letter about feeding wildlife (“Don’t feed the wildlife,” T&V, Aug. 11) abets the fallacy that squirrels will give you rabies.
According the Center for Disease Control, squirrels “are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to transmit rabies to humans.”
As for the original article by Ms. Mollot, its last sentence, “So far no incidents involving squirrel bites have been reported directly to management” lays bare the gossip and half-truths at the root of the squirrel hysteria.
For a calming view of these much maligned creatures, I recommend going to YouTube for the first lesson of my How to Train Squirrels In Martial Arts.
And, yes, it’s a bit of a lark.
William Kelly, ST