Need an inexpensive nature activity to kick off the Girl Scout year?
New York City is recruiting volunteers to participate in a census of squirrels in Central Park this month.
According to AM NY:
The Squirrel Census, an award-winning project dedicated to documenting Eastern gray squirrels, will count the furry four-legged creatures in Manhattan’s largest park from Oct. 6 through Oct. 20. The results of the data gathering will be released as a multimedia, interactive map of Central Park.
Organizers prefer counters to be at least 14 years old, but younger children can participate with an adult partner.
While this is the first census of Central Park, the Squirrel Census organization (yes, it really exists) has done two counts in Atlanta’s Inman Park and other smaller inventories.
I think I’ll pass.
I’ve had bad experiences with park squirrels before.
Yes, dear readers, it is time to share my squirrel story.
I lived in London in 1990 and took regular morning walks through Holland Park. I usually stopped at the neighborhood news agent for a newspaper for myself and a small bag of peanut M&Ms for the squirrels.
But one morning I arrived at the park and realized I’d forgotten the M&Ms. “No problem,” I thought. I certainly wasn’t going to make a detour for the squirrels.
After walking down a path for a few minutes, I noticed this one squirrel who seemed to be scampering along with me.
He would walk behind me, then scurry in front of me, stop and stand up on his hind legs, and stare at me. He did this four or five times.
That’s when I realized, this squirrel RECOGNIZED me. He was WAITING for me.
No, he was waiting for my M&MS.
Then Mr. Squirrel decided to take matters into his own hands.
He lunged at me, landing on the leg of my jeans.
Mr. Squirrel clawed his way up my pants leg and STUCK HIS LITTLE SQUIRREL HAND IN MY POCKET.
Yes, the pocket where I usually had M&Ms. He thoroughly rummaged his little squirrel hand around in my pocket looking for candy.
That’s when I started yelling and kicking trying, to dislodge Mr. Squirrel. But he held on tight. I was yelling, turning in circles, kicking my leg, with a squirrel flapping on my leg.
Finally, he turned loose. I swear he gave me a dirty look before scampering away. He also muttered something rude under his breath.
I headed home, my jeans shredded and leg bleeding.
But I vowed not to let Mr. Squirrel win, and the next day went out for another walk. In Kensington Gardens.
In announcing the Central Park count, the New York City mayor’s office has cautioned: “Count with your eyes, not your hands.”
I hope they tell the squirrels to keep their hands to themselves.
© 2018 Ann Robertson