Those Darn Squirrels

Humans aren’t the only ones who have learned to social distance

Squirrel on Boston Coomon

Story by Andrea Grant
Photograph by Michael J. Clarke

Professor Lauren Nolfo-Clements and her biology students have long tracked the behavior of the Boston Public Garden’s highly social squirrels. When Valentino Kaja, BS ’21, compared data from 2019 and 2020, he discovered that the normally vocal and inquisitive critters had grown reserved, with far fewer foraging or interacting.

His hypothesis? The extroverted antics that earned squirrels tidbits from tourists may have also made them targets for predators such as hawks, whose numbers rose as human visitors decreased.

Though natural food sources are adequate to sustain the squirrel population, time will tell whether their numbers have remained s t a b l e — a n d whether their social skills will rebound as the city returns to normal.

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