MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation is warning park visitors not to feed squirrels.

During the fall, squirrels are more aggressive getting food because they’re trying to fatten up for winter. Now, workers worry the squirrels are getting a little too aggressive in Loring Park.

“Somebody needs to do something about it, because it’s just gotten to the point that the whole park is overrun with squirrels,” said Lisa, who didn’t want to share her last name.

MaryLynn Pulscher, Environmental Education Director for the Park Board, said there is no law on the books about squirrels, but people should see squirrels in a different way.

“There is an ordinance about not feeding rats and if you took the fur off a squirrel, it’s a tree rat,” said Pulscher.

While first-time visitors may be surprised by the squirrels, the problem began in the early 1900s.

“Squirrels in Loring Park that are here today weren’t actually here to begin with, they were red squirrels,” says Pulscher. “When Theodore Wirth was superintendent, he decided he didn’t like them and really liked those cute gray squirrels, so he had the park police dispatch the red squirrels and he actually brought in the gray squirrels. He actually had our carpenters build them little beds in the trees and a staff person would go around and feed them.”

Soon, people started bringing their own food to the park and the squirrels caught on quickly.

So, if the warning isn’t enough. Remember, squirrels do bite the hand that feeds them.

“There were like four to begin with and then there were 20 eventually following us,” said Kelsey Gasner, a Loring Park visitor. “One actually did bite me. They’ll put their hands on you to steady your hands to grab the peanut from you.”

While the Health Department doesn’t consider squirrels a rabies risk, Minneapolis officials said that shouldn’t matter. If Minneapolis workers see you feeding the squirrels, they will ask you to stop.

Comments (58)
  1. Larry F. says:

    Please continue feeding the squirrels, with global warming ruining their natural environment, they must be food stamped. Squirrels: don’t let the paleodiet folks catch you without a struggle! Be fat and free squirrels!

    1. Ty says:

      I agreed! City of Mpls need to plant more walnut, oak, chesnuts trees for squirrels. That’s easy! City of Mpls workers are no-brainer!

  2. Kay Hansen says:

    Squirrels eyes are on the side of their heads so that they can spot predators around them. This means they don’t see clearly what’s right in front of their noses. In other words, your finger looks just like a tasty peanut to the binocular squirrel.

    Squirrels have sharp, chisel-like teeth which enable them to crack open black walnuts and other treats. When a squirrel bites you, he’s not “attacking,” he’s just trying to take the peanut. But your plump finger looks like a peanut. Advice: throw peanut on the ground. Loring Park squirrels are adept at following the bouncing peanut.

    One other thing: Squirrels are almost never found to have rabies. And squirrels have not been known to cause rabies in humans within the United States. So, don’t be hatin’ on the squirrels. Just try to understand them.

  3. james says:

    do you live here? have you ever actually been to loring park?? these squirrels are more like your common gang then friendly furry animals looking for a bite to eat, they want you for everything you got, and they will attack you til they get it.
    dont speak unless you’ve experienced the squirrels for yourself.

    1. Larry F. says:

      Polar bears act in the same manner.

    2. Kay Hansen says:

      James, Not only do I live on Loring Park, but I work on Loring Park. Have for nearly 20 years. I’m there every. single. day. Are they acclimated to humans? Absolutely. They know that every hominid is a potential food source. So they seek. But they do not attack. What are you made of, man? You do know that this is their home, right? You are the visitor. Remember that.

    3. Linda says:

      I am a regular visitor to the park, too. Have been for 25+ years. The squirrels are not aggressive, and they do not attack. Will they come to an outstretched hand? Sure. And like Kay said, they don’t see very well directly in front of their face, and sometimes mistake a finger for a peanut. So if you don’t want to be “attacked”, just don’t put your hand out in front of their face. Sheesh!

    4. me says:

      I think I need to bring my dog down to Loring. She LOVES squirrels… of course she might have a heart attack trying to figure out which one to chase first …

    5. Dawn says:

      People living near Loring Park provide food dishes (feeding stations) and water for the squirrels all around the park. The practice of feeding squirrels in Loring Park has caused the squirrel behavior you describe. Yes! The squirrels walk up to people and follow them. They know the drill.

    6. Shantay says:

      Who are you to restrict who can have an opinion?

    7. Shantay says:

      Who made you dictator of who can write comments?

  4. Tim says:

    I’m rooting for gray squirrels! I am Squirrels lover! 🙂


    1. Auntie Venom says:

      The reds are so much better looking, and they taste great, too. Wirth was an idiot to import the greys, they take over and run out the reds. The greys are destructive lil’ buggers, and I have fun trapping the ones that dig up my yard…I always dispose of them in the City approved way, and you don’t really want to know what that is!

  5. Olive A. says:

    Loring Park is the best wildlife sanctuary in the Twin Cities. Please don’t take that away! People just need to understand animal behavior and stop jumping to stupid conclusions. What a one sided “news” story. Yeesh.

  6. Mailand Long says:

    Ooooh… scary music + scared people = scary squirrels. Nice try. Now, can we get back to discussing real issues?

  7. am 1130 listener says:

    Yeah, let’s get back to talking about how liberals are the scourge of the earth and blaming Obama for the fact I didn’t become an NFL player

  8. Kurt Wahlstrom says:

    Oh yeah, starving the squirrels will calm them right down. They will go from being aggressive to launching full fledged attacks on any park patron. I suggest a very large bundle of unused corn for the Loring Park Squirrel Gang. They will be happy and anyone visiting the park will be in peace! – – – Of course, I could be wrong 😉

  9. The REAL, real Jake says:

    Chasing people just to eat someone’s nuts in Loring PARK?! Like that activity has never occurred there before;)

  10. Jojo says:

    Blast ’em.

  11. David Roberts says:

    I Love Squirrels I stand up for their rights Go Suirrels Go

  12. Joe says:

    I don’t like squirrels. They need to be dispatched with. Vermin. Nothing more than vermin who destroy everything around them.

  13. Sam I am says:

    Dont feed the squirrels. When a child gets bit or someone sues – which you know is going to happen the story will be significantly different.

    1. M says:

      Wow Suing mother nature. That’s a new one.

  14. just sayin says:

    This just in: Squirrels now protesting. Occupy Loring Park is in full effect.

    1. Linda says:

      LOVE it, Go squirrels! :-)))

    2. Ty says:

      Why squirrels now protesting? Because City of Mpls didnt plant moer nuts trees, make squirrels get hungry! Maybe, City of Mpls want to cut nut trees down and make squirrels and birds got starve hungry! Go Squirrels! City of Mpls just destroyed enviroment and get rid of animals!

  15. Joe Jakubik says:

    If you want to feed the squirrels, just throw the food on the ground near them – don’t try to get them to take the food from your hand like your dog. If you don’t have any food, don’t make eye contact and keep walking. same rules apply on Block E.

  16. Amy says:

    Squirrels, in my opinion, are nasty little rodents that destroy property and carry fleas. That being said, they do have a right to life but should be respected as all wild animals are. Do not feed them; nature gave them a healthy fear of humans for a reason. Train them to trust humans and they could be caught off guard by a mean teenager or other scary person. They will find there own food sources (or not…that is natural population control), we do not need to feed them.

    1. Amy says:

      Forgive my typos! I’m multi tasking…

  17. b says:

    city people your worthless its a squirrel if your a guy complaining about this you wear a suit and tie probabaly which makes you more worthless

  18. Jake says:

    Are slingshots allowed in the park?

  19. Deep Thinker says:

    I hate it when squirrels dress like clowns…I think it’s a phobia

  20. Kevin says:

    I was told by the DNR that if you casturate a squirrel, it will become an aggressive liberal! After watching the Occupy Wall Street protesters, I get it.

  21. Special Agent Dale Cooper says:

    Years ago, I was ‘huslted’ by a starving squirrel in my backyard in South Mpls. But it was all good. He looked at me and I understood what he was saying. He was saying, “Hey man, things are a little tough out here. Would you mind helping a brother out?” I told him to stay right where he was. I went inside the house. Got a nice piece of 12 grain bread. Came back outside. And there he was….waiting. I gently threw the bread about 3 feet off my walkway and into the grass. He got the bread. I went to work. And all’s well that ends well. Peace & Love to all God’s furry little misunderstood friends. Feed them & feed them well.

  22. rml says:

    Squirrels were there first, it’s their park. They have a right to eat too, and if people are going to feed them, well then it is the human’s fault… not the squirrels’ fault.

  23. joanne says:

    Joannewell I never feed the squirrels but they have made a hole in my roof and live in my attic and run around in the winter, I am a senior and cannoit fix the hole and cannot get rid of the squirrels I love animals but dont know how to get rid of them and plug the hole on a fixed income I even had one in my dining room it was a small one but it is scary.. If anyone knows how to rid my attic of them humanely let me know.

    1. me says:

      rat poison … traps … CATS

  24. red says:

    Are we all going to start feeding all the bats that are coming back now too?

    1. Jada says:

      The bats do have boxes in the park, and may other parks, due to their declining population numbers. They are critical to controlling many insect species and are a protected animal.

  25. dhm081963 says:

    Joanne my friend’s mom lived in Saint Louis Park and the same exact thing happened to her a few yrs back.. She had a tree branch that crossed her roof so the squirrels dug a hole in her roof and got into her attic so she was told then to put a live animal trap up their which are not expensive and you can get at most hardware stores . So she did and the squirrel was caught unharmed and released back outside. Then just plug the hole otherwise they will come right back in. And the bad thing is they can cause severe damage to your home and fire if they’re not stopped and taken care of… The problem will only get worse as they multiply Good luck

  26. The Infidel says:

    I knew it! Squirrles are Liberal Democrates! Always looking for a hand out from the rich Peanut Barons!!!

  27. Sqrl says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a red squirrel before. Are they still around?

  28. sw says:

    I don’t necessarily feed the squirrels but when I have pumpkins leftover from Halloween I just leave them out for the squirrels, they really like them – they love the seeds. Sometimes I throw old nuts out to them. They are fun to watch! Some people just want to kill everything! I’m not quite sure I understand this – can’t we just leave nature alone? Do people know how destructive “people” are? More destructive than a squirrel – that is my opinion! Like it or not!

  29. Jada says:

    I love the squirrels and am a Minneapolis native that has been visiting Loring park regularly my entire life. From reading a book on the ground (in what is “apparently” an attack zone) to eating lunch on a park bench. I have never been bitten or attacked and find it odd that people feel threatened by a squirrel coming up to see if you will throw a peanut. The sparrows ask for peanuts too…are they also considered attackers? One big reason we should leave the squirrels alone, and feed as freely as we wish to (or don’t wish to), is because squirrels and rats occupy the same space. Surely we can all agree that a rat in the park just doesn’t have the same charm. Here is a fun article about why the gray squirrels live in Loring Park in the first place. If you love the birds, you’ll appreciate this article. http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/120730814.html

    1. Bob Baggio says:

      Jada is right. Squirrels (as all animals) fill a niche. When you evict squirrels from an area, one of two things will happen: 1-another bunch of squirrels will move in or 2-animals with similar needs (like rats) will move in.

      I don’t want to use this space to talk bad about rats because I think they get enough bad PR. I’m just sayin’ … appreciate what you have!

  30. KM says:

    ‘Squirrels getting fat!” Oh no, better get Mrs Obama right on that!

  31. colder says:

    They’re good batter-fried with a shake or two of hot sauce on ’em!

  32. Nancy Aleshire says:

    My son and I love putting out peanuts for the squirrels at Loring Park and are going to continue doing so. We drop them on the ground so we won’t get bitten. Never heard of anyone being killed by the squirrel–can’t say the same about man’s best friend, but I still love dogs. Believe it or not squirrels were trucked in from Kansas many years ago, saw this watching PBS. Squirrels can to damage to woodwork and wiring if they get into a home and can cause power outages to substations. Loring Park, and other parks are the perfect places for these intelligent, bushy tailed critters. If you don’t like them just ignore them and don’t feed them.

    1. Olive A says:

      I’m with you, Nancy. Loring Park is so unique. The amount and variety of wildlife is astounding for a city park. That the wildlife is comfortable around humans and willing to interact is a thrill we can’t get anywhere else in the cities. Not only are their lots of beautiful squirrels, but red-winged blackbirds, wood ducks, herons, gulls, hawks (Yes, even they will come pretty close). Have you seen the winter roosting-crows show?

      For those of you who want to poison, blast, cook or otherwise “dispatch” them, you are missing the point: these guys have come to trust us. That’s an honor. Respect. Embrace the moment.

      If it’s an animall-free experience you’re after go to MOA where the only animals are animatronic. Actually, come to think of it Lake Calhoun is pretty scrubbed. Go there.

      1. J'suis says:

        It’s not so much trust as it is that they’ve learned how we mean an easy and quick meal.

  33. laupforod says:

    down with the man

  34. J'suis says:

    This just seems kind of ridiculous. First we move in and restrict the native habitat of many animals. Then we exchange them for something else. Then we complain about it. Seriously… it’s obvious that we’re never going to get it right. Humans never know what they’re doing. Any city-dwelling animal becomes fearless. I’ve seen such a huge range of different animals in the city. Turkeys, foxes, otters, raccoons, possums, geese, deer, coyotes… seriously you can’t get rid of them. You just need to use your head instead of pretending like your helpless before reaching for a gun.

  35. Ty says:

    call reverse, you’re sick! I’m not sick! Why dont City of Mpls should have plant more walnut, oak, chestnut and other for squirrels able to find food without people feed. I am animal lover! Everyone think you’re cruel animals and not smart person in the whole world. I said, that’s simple, what City of Mpls need to plant more nuts than you’re think slow like as winnie the pooh said, let me think… Duh! I have no problem with many squirrels, turkey, pheasants, other animals and birds at home. That where I live country. I think uou have a big prblem with rats in ur house. That squirrels is NOT RAT!!! There is no law! You just offend people

  36. Timothy says:

    Those of us who have been studying the wildlife in Loring Park for decades know that the squirrels of the park are a delightful addition to the eco system. Squirrels do not attack humans. On the other hand, certain irresponsible dog owners in Loring Park do allow their dogs to attack the wildlife on a regular basis. This is the behavior that needs to be stopped. All park-systems are meant to bring nature into our lives. All of us need to know how to respond constructively to nature’s gifts.

    This was an obviously biased and poorly researched story.

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