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Squirrel Takes Rightful Place as NYC Parks Mascot

The New York City Parks Department named Pearl the Squirrel its official mascot, finally giving the city’s most popular rodent some due. Last February we lobbied  for a squirrel for the high profile post, lest parks end up with those peculiar garbage can characters. (Ok, those turn out to be for recycling.)

Professional illustrator Adam Koford created Pearl the Squirrel on his kids’ suggestion. Koford, who lives in Utah, is more known for his comic strip Laugh-Out-Loud Cats on Hobotopia. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe says Pearl will be the Smokey the Bear of urban parks. Asylum reports she’s already attained a Betty Boop-like aura among furries, who fetishize anybody in a mascot costume. 

Right now I’ve got one squirrel eating sunflower seeds outside on my Manhattan window sill between chasing pigeons away and inside  four baby squirrels and one adult with malocclusion in my care as a wildlife rehabber, so it’s no surprise I think of squirrels as the perfect emblem for urban wildlife. 

New York City squirrels are different. They’re semi-dependent on people, so they’ll go right up to parks visitors. The smaller the park, the pushier the squirrel. Every time I pass through City Hall Park some European or Japanese tourists have cornered some squirrel for a photo op, paying for the picture in nuts. They defend their trees against red-tailed hawks and sometimes live in subsidized housing. Suburban squirrels don’t have that kind of Moxie.

New York City Squirrel Tips Americans are more fascinated by our black squirrels (try Stuyvesant Town if you want to see one); they’re just a color variant of grays, like how Labrador retrievers come in chocolate, yellow and black. New York City has three species of squirrel: gray, fox and flying. (There used to be at least one red squirrel in Central Park, too.) The fox squirrels are the ones with the golden bellies. The flying squirrels used to be much more common; now they’re seen just occasionally at dusk in Inwood or Alley Pond Nature Center.

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