Why Count All the Squirrels in Central Park? Why the Heck Not

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Attention, urban rodent fans. On Saturday, an army of clipboard-wielding enumerators fanned out across the 840 acres of New York City’s most beloved green space in search of a skittering quarry: Sciurus carolinensis, familiarly known as the Eastern gray squirrel. They were conducting what purports to be the first-ever comprehensive Central Park squirrel census . The census, which will take two weeks, is the brainchild of a writer named Jamie Allen, who led a similar census in 2012 of Inman Park in Atlanta. The official results will be published next spring. For God’s sake, why? Lots of reasons. For one thing, Mr. Allen said, the wonders of the Eastern gray squirrel have yet to be plumbed, despite — or maybe because of — its ubiquity. Every so often “a new study will come out about Eastern gray squirrels,” he noted, “that will tell us something about their intelligence or behavior patterns that we should have figured out a long time ago.” A few years ago there was the revelation that squirrels “lie,” fake-burying nuts when other squirrels are watching. Last year researchers determined that squirrels engage in “ spatial chunking ,” sorting nuts by size, type and possibly nutritional […]

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