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Penn researcher traces the history of the American urban squirrel
Date:12/6/2013

community beyond the bounds of humanity."

By the first couple of decades of the 20th century, some of the rosy glow toward squirrels had faded, Benson noted. Booming populations began to annoy some city residents, as the animals took up residence in attics, bit people trying to feed them, dug up gardens and scared away songbirds from feeders.

By the time the environmental movement took hold in the 1960s and 1970s, Benson argued, squirrels in the urban environment were no longer widely seen as morally significant members of the community and instead began to be viewed with a more ecological mindset. Ideas of letting them live out life "as nature intended" took a stronger hold.

"There is a shift at the end of the 20th century, where it becomes almost a crime or a sin to feed animals, which is entirely the opposite of where it was earlier," he said.

Next, Benson plans to explore how wildlife has been impacted by human-built infrastructure, an idea spurred on by a scene he routinely observes from his Philadelphia home.

"From my back porch I can see two or three squirrels that regularly use a wire to get across the road," he says. "I want to look at how the systems we build get appropriated by other organisms, and think about how nonhumans are cobbling together their own infrastructure systems to live in human-dominated landscapes."


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Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie
kbaillie@upenn.edu
215-898-9194
University of Pennsylvania
Source:Eurekalert  

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