Cheyenne Community Forester Molly O’Brien knew the squirrel situation was getting bad when she received a report that a squirrel had jumped into a baby’s carriage at Lions Park.
“They are getting domesticated,” she said.
The Cheyenne Urban Forestry Division is now placing around 20 “Please Don’t Feed Squirrels” signs throughout Cheyenne parks and a few city destinations. This is in response to an abnormally high population of destructive squirrels.
Due to the habitual feeding of squirrels, the squirrel population has grown to an unmanageable level in several parks and natural areas, according to city officials. This growing population of squirrels and an escalating trend of their aggressive habits have increased tree dieback and mortality throughout the city.
Although O’Brien doesn’t have any statistics on how much the squirrel population has grown, she said in comparison to other municipalities, Cheyenne’s squirrel population is quite large.
Squirrels like to chew and feed on branches and tree trunks, often removing the bark and cambium layer, which disrupts the movement of water and nutrients throughout the tree. With older trees, as squirrel damage increases, branches become girdled, which results in extensive dieback that weakens the tree. With younger trees, squirrels often girdle the trunk, also resulting in tree mortality.
Scene Of The Crime
On Friday morning, a squad of squirrels comfortably feasted on corn kernels around some park benches at Cheyenne’s Holliday Park, home to one of the city’s biggest squirrel populations.
O’Brien said one of the biggest problems is that people are feeding squirrels like they are pets. The city is discouraging residents from feeding squirrels to get the squirrel population to a more manageable and sustainable level.
“They are wild animals and you don’t ever want to feed a wild animal,” O’Brien said.
In conversations with a few park-goers at Holliday, it appears that the squirrels may be suffering from a little over-confidence.
Biker Fred Williams said although he’s had no issues with the squirrels being aggressive, he did say they can sometimes be a little too friendly. Williams said he’s seen people feed the squirrels by hand.
Isaac Miller was taking a stroll with his dog Pippi, who Miller said likes chasing the squirrels off.
Miller said a squirrel got so close to a local pitbull named Kevin that Kevin was able to nab the squirrel in its jaws. Before the squirrel died in the canine’s clenches, it was able to take a nasty bite out Kevin’s lip.
“It was like the Serengeti out there for a minute,” Miller said with a laugh.
Nine-year old Chloe Fogelsong nearly ran over a squirrel on her electric scooter while cruising around the park.
“I almost stopped too late,” she remarked.
Runner Gonzalo Anaya believes humans are the real problem.
“They should take out the rotten apples from other states,” he said.
Not Just Holliday
O’Brien said the squirrels have been a problem throughout Cheyenne’s parks and even in more urbanized areas like the Depot Plaza and the Cheyenne Municipal Building, two locations where signs will also be put up.
“It’s just about putting out more education to bring an educational awareness of the damage of having people feed the squirrels,” she said.
No Exterminations Planned
As bad as things have gotten, O’Brien said there’s no plans for any kind of mass culling or extermination of the squirrels.
“I don’t think we’re going to be putting that into effect,” she said.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.