Hi, it’s Twiggy the waterskiing squirrel here. You may have seen me at local boat shows or in country music videos. I am not really sure why I’m forced to put foam skis on my tiny claws and “ski” in an above-ground swimming pool in convention centers across the nation.
It’s really more like hanging on for dear life. Newsflash: Squirrels aren’t really the strongest swimmers; we can do it but it’s exhausting for us! But I digress. I stopped asking “Why me?” years ago. It’s not like I really have a choice and the kids seem to like it, so I have made peace with my soggy lot in life. But recently I was approached by a group of my fellow bushy-tailed friends in Mobile to represent them in a governmental matter.
You may have heard Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson wanted to make it illegal to feed my friends in Bienville Square because he says they’ve gotten out of hand. It’s the position of my clients that they never asked to be fed in the first place. They were just minding their own business, making good homes for themselves and their kids in in the Square’s magnificent oaks, when people started feeding them peanuts from A&M, among other little treats, and they continue to do so.
Were they supposed to say “No, thanks. I’ll just eat these bland acorns instead?” Would you people continue eating sirloin if people were hand-feeding you filet mignon? I think not. So, yes, my squirrelly friends may have gotten a bit fat and happy. And with such things as securing food no longer a worry, yes, there has been more time for “getting down to business,” if you know what I mean. Bow-squirrel-a-bow-wow. And of course, without easy access to birth control, there has been a bit of a squirrel baby boom as well. #urbansquirrelproblems
But none of this is their fault and these guys are still fine, (sometimes) upstanding rodents — in fact, some of the most adorable ones on the planet. Would this even be an issue if say, our cousins the rats had overrun downtown? Of course not. They’d be served up heaping helpings of D-Con faster than Mama June Bug could stuff a deep-fried Snickers down Honey Boo Boo’s gullet. Mass rat-ocide and no one would blink an eye. In fact, the executioners would be given keys to the city. Oh what a difference a bushy tail makes. Life isn’t always fair and that goes for all of us, no matter where your place is in the animal kingdom.
But, look, I’m a reasonable squirrel. I’ve been around humans long enough to know how y’all think. I get that too much of a good thing, like my adorable buddies, can be a nuisance too. While I was surfing the Internet (If a squirrel can ski, why can’t he surf?), I came across several videos of my friends being fed in the Square. I can see where this situation could be alarming to the higher-ups in city government.
A reporter was showing how aggressive the Bienville gang was becoming and how both she and her cameraman were even bitten in the course of filming it. (Though it should be noted my squirrels maintain they were manipulated into drawing blood for the sake of better television.) The bleeding duo then journeyed to a local veterinarian — instead of a human doctor, for some reason — who told them they were probably fine. He added the biggest threat of disease they needed to worry about was ringworm. I know, yummy, right? But nothing a little Blue Star Ointment couldn’t cure. And it’s guaranteed — ask for it!
But also on the interwebs there was a clip of a couple on their way to Florida who specifically made a stop in the Port City because they had heard of the Bienville Square squirrels and they wanted to see them for themselves. They appeared to have not been mauled and/or developed ringworm … as far as we know. So two words: Economic Impact. Somebody get me Semoon Chang on the phone and let’s talk multipliers!
But in an effort to control what has gotten out of control, the administration wanted to make it illegal for anyone to feed these guys and set the fines at up to $500. City Attorney Ricardo Woods warned if they didn’t get the population under control in this “humane” way, other measures would have to be taken. Though he was kind of vague on what those “other measures” would be, I don’t think he was talking about relocating them to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ask the Municipal Park geese about this one. It does not end well, my friends.
So upon hearing this declaration from the city, my clients asked me to approach the City Council to see if we could work something out. And clearly they listened to me. John Williams said it could “become a public spectacle” if they passed the ordinance to fine people for this (agree!), and Joel Daves said we shouldn’t legislate something we aren’t prepared to enforce (also agree!). And of course Fred Richardson somehow made even this issue a way to say police could use it to target the poor by arresting transients who may throw the squirrels a piece of bread (sigh).
Bess Rich said we should just get some cute signage, saying our squirrels were on a diet, please don’t feed them. Now of course, all my lady clients called me up asking if Rich was saying they were fat. I said, well maybe she just thinks y’all are big boned, but they didn’t buy it.
But I actually think Rich is on the right track, although perhaps a little less precious signage is in order, without the highly offensive fat jokes. (Squirrels are very vain creatures, just FYI.)
I suggested the brutally honest, “If you don’t stop feeding the squirrels, we’re going to have to kill them,” with a picture of a smiling man wringing a squirrel’s neck or “If you feed these squirrels, you will get scabies, rabies and so will your babies,” with a pic of a rabid, rashy crying baby.
I kid, I kid. Just a simple “Please don’t feed the squirrels. It causes a public health issue” would suffice, along with gentle reminders by police and Downtown Mobile Alliance ambassadors.
I promise you, “If they can’t get their nuts from the Square, they will eventually go elsewhere!” That’s some sort of law of nature, I think.
So give the signs a try and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work, just send them to me. I’ve been wanting to incorporate some pyramids into my ski routine anyway.