Urban Squirrels


If you’ve spent time on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign-Urbana, you’ve likely noticed the squirrels… and their odd behavior. According to mammalian ecologist Ed Heske, they live on campus because in the early 1900’s, the UI allotted $125 dollars to introduce squirrels to campus to enhance interaction between its students and the natural world.

The idea that urban squirrels would be good for people living in cities, however, wasn’t unique to the University of Illinois; it was part of a much larger movement that swept the US starting on the East coast in the early 19th century. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Heske and Assistant Professor of History at Pennsylvania University Etienne Benson about how squirrels became so visible in our lives and how our attitudes toward them have changed drastically in the last 100 years.

Have you had an encounter with a squirrel? Do they brighten your day or terrorize your yard? Tell us about it in the comments section below!