Eastern Grey Squirrels
Squirrels are friendly Park ambassadors at Madison Square Park. They call the Park their home just like all the other wildlife found within this green oasis. However, many don’t know but human feeding of squirrels can cause major fluctuations in the squirrel population, causing overcrowding and hyper-competition for food and other resources. It shapes the animals to become more aggressive with humans, such as climbing on and biting Park visitors. They also may engage in risky behaviors such as approaching visitors with pet dogs, which leads to all sorts of trouble.
We have found it best for squirrels to eat food that grows in the Park. We have 33 oaks, 4 hawthorns, 7 cherry, 22 crabapple, 1 hackberry, and 3 horse chestnut trees that the squirrels can feed off of. Roughly, this comes out to 11 trees/acre of appropriate species of tree that can feed them, not including any of the understory or perennial material like chokeberry, blueberry, and winter hazel in the Park. (For more information, visit Page 29 of the Madison Square Park Tree Plan)
Food provided by visitors is unsustainable and often times, an unhealthy resource that harms them. By letting squirrels be wild creatures instead of pets, you end up helping them in the long run, so we ask visitors to stop and appreciate the Eastern Grey Squirrel from a distance. Squirrels have many behaviors that go unnoticed when we ask them to eat from our hand. Stop to observe and you will see how much they enjoy running up and down the many nut trees our horticulture team has placed throughout the Park; you will see them chase each other in a playful fashion; you might even see them bury a nut to trick their thieving friends.
In short, let’s continue to let our creatures stay wild and friendly.