I just learned that it’s Squirrel Appreciation Day. As a huge fan of squirrels, I wanted to honor it in some way.
So, if you have always been fascinated by the little furry guys running around our cities, check out this piece from the Washington Post.
Looking to fill the squirrel vacuum, nature lovers, government officials and other civic-minded residents in the early 1900s pushed to have areas including Lafayette Square, the U.S. Capitol grounds and the Mall stocked with squirrels. “Several Pairs of Interesting Little Animals to Be Set Free Among the Trees” read a 1901 headline in The Washington Post, announcing plans by the Architect of the Capitol to introduce squirrels to the grounds.
Like so many Washingtonians, these early squirrels were transplants, and they were public servants in a way as well, brought here to satisfy a public eager for the pleasure of having squirrels in its parks. The new arrivals could be attributed in part to the efforts of a well-known local animal dealer named Edward Schmid.
Schmid was the founder of a downtown pet store famous for supplying animals to the families of presidents and other luminaries. He was friendly with President Theodore Roosevelt, whose children, according to a 1907 news item, played with squirrels Schmid provided for the White House grounds.
Squirrels in Lafayette Square quickly became a beloved fixture, attracting locals who fed them faithfully and marveled at their antics. Squirrel houses and iron receptacles for drinking water were installed. Public fears arose occasionally that a tough winter or some other hardship might harm the squirrel population, but government officials assured people that the U.S. Park Police fed the animals as part of its duties. (For the record, feeding wildlife is now prohibited on National Park Service land, which includes the Mall and Lafayette Square.)
Happy Squirrel Appreciation Day!