Posted on October 27, 2006


California Quagmire

or How to create more squirrels


Daniel Clark



"For every one you take out, two more will come in. It could be a never-ending project that isn't going to accomplish anything."

That's the quagmire in which the town of Mountain View, California finds itself, according to Norma Campbell, who is identified in news reports as a "South Bay wildlife rehabilitator." Mountain View is where several people, including small children, have recently been attacked and bitten by aggressive squirrels. The city decided that it was in the best interest of public health and safety to capture and kill these squirrels, but Campbell and other critics have won the bushy-tailed rodents a reprieve.

The spotted owl: endangered in droves

If there's anything that Americans -- and especially Californians -- have learned over the past five years, it's that killing those who threaten you is a fruitless endeavor. If you kill your enemies, an endless supply of others will rise up and take their places, not unlike sharks' teeth.

Hence, by killing the squirrels, Californians will only create more squirrels, thereby perpetuating an endless cycle of violence. One day we'll wake up and harness this power for good, by using it to save endangered species. Not enough spotted owls? Kill them. This will cause more owls to happen. Problem solved.

Rather than respond to one act of violence with another, the people of Mountain View need to get to the root causes of the problem, by asking themselves what they've done to make the squirrels hate them. To that end, a report by the local NBC affiliate points out that the squirrels have become more hostile since visitors have been discouraged from feeding them.

Such a display of greed is clearly provocative, what with the inequitable distribution of the planet's resources that already exists. While the squirrels are scrounging around for acorns, ill-mannered humans are bringing their sandwiches, potato salad and apple pies to the park and filling their faces, without even sharing.

This behavior has exacerbated the longstanding resentments between the haves and the have-nuts. Considering the humiliation, degradation and, yes, torture, that the squirrels have endured, can they really be faulted for sinking their choppers into a few bypassing toddlers? Before acting as the squirrels' judge, jury and executioner, the people of Mountain View should try walking a mile in their well, you get the point.

Since humans are the cause of the squirrels' violence, it is up to them to ameliorate the problem by finding nonviolent alternatives, like universal veterinary care, a moratorium on logging, and a formal apology for our ancestors' having brought dogs over from Europe. Once they've admitted that the squirrels are justified in attacking them, the squirrels are bound to meet them halfway, and work out a peaceful settlement. Cultural differences aside, squirrels are just like you and me, and they yearn for peace just as much as we do.

It's typical American hubris that has created this simplistic dichotomy, by which the squirrels are perceived as the aggressors, and humans as the innocent victims. This presumptuous "us versus them" mentality has alienated many of mankind's traditional friends in the animal kingdom, and left the humans to go it alone. Just think how much more willing the squirrels would be to listen, if a couple of the less impetuous animals, like the owls and beavers, were involved in the peace process.

Can't we all just get along?

In the final analysis, the fact that the Californians have indefinitely suspended their ill-conceived campaign of destruction barely makes any difference. That they would even consider such a cruel and disproportionate response is an affront to the squirrels' dignity.

That massive recruiting effort that Ms. Campbell warned about must already be well underway. Soon the squirrels will descend on Mountain View in overwhelming numbers. Moreover, they are far more dedicated to their struggle than their human antagonists, who have ample reason to question the righteousness of their cause.

In retrospect, humans have had it far too easy up until now. For as long as we can remember, we've lived in this Peter Pan world, where young children can just go running through the park willy-nilly, without getting bitten by squirrels. We've been shielded from the reality in which all other creatures live, where being bitten is a fact of everyday life. All the while we've watched animal violence in TV documentaries from faraway lands, thinking that it could never happen to us here. Well, it's time we tore down that arrogant facade of human exceptionalism, and learned to accept the occasional biting, just like everybody else.

-- Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.



Return to Shinbone

 The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press 

 Mailbag . Issue Index . Politimals