From Maine and Minnesota on down to Texas, the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is better known as a fearless beggar, common to city parks, golf courses, and college campuses. They’re wild animals, technically, but that doesn’t stop us from offering them peanuts and breadcrumbs without the slightest fear of attack. Hunting urban squirrels seems like it would require little more than a cardboard box, a stick, and a length of twine.
Bittel took his inspiration from an academic article in the Journal of American History by Etienne Benson.
The people who introduced squirrels and other animals to public squares and commons in Philadelphia, Boston, and New Haven sought to beautify and enliven the urban landscape at a time when American cities were growing in geographic extent, population density, and cultural diversity. A typical expression of the motivation behind this effort can be found in an 1853 article in the Philadelphia press describing the introduction of squirrels, deer, and peacocks as steps toward making public squares into “truly delightful resorts, affording the means of increasing enjoyment to the increasing multitudes that throng this metropolis.”