Philadelphia, squirrel pioneer. A paper by Penn’s Etienne Benson investigates the proliferation of squirrels in American cities, and finds that they are in no way indigenous to urban areas. City planners and squirrel enthusiasts introduced them to northeastern cities in the mid-19th century. And Philly, he finds, was likely the first to bring the critters to town.
The first introductions of free-living squirrels to urban centers took place in cities along the Eastern Seaboard between the 1840s and the 1860s. Philadelphia seems to have been the pioneering city, with Boston and New Haven, Connecticut, following soon after. In 1847 three squirrels were released in Philadelphia’s Franklin Square and were provided with food and boxes for nesting. Additional squirrels were introduced in the following years, and by 1853 gray squirrels were reported to be present in Independence, Walnut Street, and Logan Squares, where the city supplied nest boxes and food, and where visiting children often provided supplementary nuts and cakes. In 1857 a recent visitor to Philadelphia noted that the city’s squirrels were “so tame that they will come and take nuts out of one’s hand” and added so much to the liveliness of the parks that “it was a wonder that they are not in the public parks of all great cities.”
Boom. Guess what happened next? Everyone copied Philly. H/t Daily Pennsylvanian.