Saturday, June 29, 2019

Still Life with Robin: The Importance of an Accurate Census

Photo by Joe Ravi via Creative Commons

by Peggy Robin

You probably assumed I’m talking about the US Census, now that the Supreme Court is letting it go forward without the citizenship question. Sure, that’s important. In a way, it’s TOO important for me to take up in my Still Life with Robin column, with its focus on the trivial, the silly, the mundane. No, I’m talking about the SQUIRREL census. Getting an accurate count of the furry little rodents may not matter one thousandth as much as counting people; still, it’s a lot harder to pull off. Consider that you can’t ask the squirrels any questions. Well, you can, but here’s what you would get in response: Worse, you can hardly tell ‘em apart. Which makes it quite a chore for the average census taker to know if the squirrel she's looking at has already been counted. But that hasn’t stopped over 300 intrepid volunteers from pursuing this task – the first time it’s ever been done.

I wish I could say it’s been done here in DC, where we certainly have a booming population of some of the best and brightest squirrels on the planet -- but I’m talking about the ones that live in Central Park, NYC, who were the subject of the 2019 Squirrel Census - You can read more about it in this National Geographic piece, available at this link:

For an even deeper dive into the subject, I recommend listening to this half-hour long podcast on "99 Percent Invisible" by Roman Mars; 

Now that it’s been done for Central Park, maybe it’s time to count our squirrels in Rock Creek Park (?)  I know we have some competent wildlife counters among us. They’ve already done counts of our coyotes, deer, rabbits and beaver. Why let New York City beat us on squirrels? DC Squirrels deserve to be counted, too! That way, we’d get needed recognition for these clever little residents of our perennially under-represented city!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.  

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