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   xoxoxoBruce  Thursday Dec 1 10:17 PM

Dec 2nd, 2016: World War 1-A

In the spring of 1918 there were two wars going on. Of course you know about the one in Europe against the Huns, but your teachers
probably never mentioned the war in California… against Ground Squirrels.

This children’s crusade was part of Squirrel Week, a seven-day frenzy in which California tried to kill off its ground squirrels. The state’s farmers and ranchers had long struggled to decimate the critters (also known as Otospermophilus beecheyi), which were seen as pests and a source of pestilence, particularly the bubonic plague. The burrowing foragers—not to be confused with tree squirrels—devoured an estimated $30 million worth of crops annually, about $480 million in current dollars.

California set aside $40,000 from its emergency wartime funds for the campaign, which included an anti-squirrel publicity blitz: the state printed up 34,000 posters and distributed 500,000 leaflets.
What made Squirrel Week unique was its reliance on kids to succeed where adults had failed. Hecke’s call to arms appeared in a pamphlet titled “Kill the Squirrels,” which sought to stir patriotic youngsters to sprinkle rodenticide outside squirrel burrows. In the pamphlet’s opening illustration, a young woman holding a pail of poison barley invites eager kids to get to work.
“Children, we must kill the squirrels to save food,” she smiles. “But use poisons carefully.” The pamphlet included a recipe for strychnine laced grain as well as suggestions for other extermination methods, such as shooting, drowning, and poison gas.

By the time Squirrel Week ended on May 4, children across the state had turned in 104,509 tails, though this was thought to represent a fraction of the total casualties. Even after the contest ended, the Commission of Horticulture reported that kids’ enthusiasm for killing squirrels continued for “an indefinite period.” During an anti-squirrel campaign in Lassen County later in the year, one girl brought in 3,780 tails; a boy brought in 3,770.
Damn, When I was a kid I’d have been happy with one piece of tail.


Snakeadelic  Friday Dec 2 08:31 AM

Those things are, in fact, downright pestilential! Some years back, my mom was getting upset because although her chickens were young and healthy she thought they had stopped laying eggs. She had like 7 hens, and was getting maybe 2 eggs a week total.

And then one day she opened the coop just in time to see good old O. beecheyi (which is found all over the West Coast) rolling a fresh egg down a burrow hidden under a corner nest box. They're NOT just vegetarian. They'll eat just about anything if they think they want it, up to and including live baby chickens, eggs, dog food, beehives, and anything in a bird feeder. And they breed FAST--they start young and have big litters that don't come up out of the burrow until they're already fast enough to dodge a dog.

We have a different species of ground squirrel around here where I live, maybe Richardson's but I haven't checked carefully. With all the pets and kids around here, I think the preferred methods of colony eradication are 1: pave the open, shortgrass spaces where they like to hang out (they don't like being in tall grass because it obstructs their view of the sky) and 2: pump inert, odorless heavier-than-air gas down the warren (and then plug holes because OMG the stench). The high school grounds are completely infested, despite routine gassing to keep the football field pristine.

squirell nutkin  Friday Dec 2 11:13 AM

What kind of Alt-Right hate mongering is this? I demand the cellar create safe spaces for squirells! And squirrels, too, I suppose. While we're at it.

xoxoxoBruce  Friday Dec 2 06:38 PM

Are you a tree rat or ground rat?

burns334  Friday Dec 2 08:03 PM

They are rodents and will eat house siding, car wire harnesses, rubber gasket on house vent pipes, tv cable wiring, fuse boxes, shingles etc, just ask me, I am not a fan of this furry little creature. Chipmunks are number 2 on my list.

orthodoc  Friday Dec 2 09:04 PM

But they're so cute ... until you see them gnawing on a dead bird's wing right under the bird feeder. That was when I looked 'em up and learned that, yass, these cuties are rodents and (like rodents everywhere) are omnivorous and will do whatever it takes to survive.

Which isn't so different from the rest of us ...

And they're darned intelligent, which is a dangerous weakness of mine. I'll forgive an intelligent animal quite a lot.

Enlisting children to poison squirrels, though? Wow. Handle the poison carefully, children! But still handle it!

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