Expert: Warm Winter Has Interfered With Squirrel Population

CHICAGO (CBS) — The warm winter that is technically still in progress may spell trouble for baby squirrels.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, the squirrels will have to compete for food with adults who survived the winter. Usually, squirrels die off in the frigid winter months, but that didn’t happen in nearly the same numbers this year.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

Urban ecologist Steve Sullivan of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum estimates adult squirrel populations are 3 to 5 percent above normal around Chicago.’

“Squirrel populations are actually a little bit higher than they probably should be, because we’ve had such a warm winter,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan says the winter normally kills off up to 80 percent of the squirrel population with low temperatures, and low food supplies. He says this warm winter killed off fewer adults than normal, but he doesn’t know how many.

Sullivan is trying to find out what the squirrel population looks like in Chicago through “Project Squirrel,” which enlists citizen scientists who survey parks and backyards for information on how many squirrels of what types are around.

He says the next generation of baby squirrels will have to compete with older stronger and more experienced squirrels that survived.

But he also notes that nature has many self-balancing mechanisms available: increased squirrel numbers may draw in more hungry hawks than usual to keep the population down.

He says he doesn’t know what the long term impact of the warm winter and early spring may be, and is hoping curiosity will inspire citizen scientists to join and help him find out.

  • German Leprechaun

    Time to dig out my Roadkill Stew recipe!!

    • Bubba

      Brunswick Stew.

  • Silver

    Move up hunting season in the Chicago area and the City could introduce a new Squirrel hunting license. An opportunity to tax the sportsman and generate some revenue for the City. It might have a slight positive effect on the crime having all those squirrel hunter with guns in the city.

    • mrcobaltblue

      But don’t forget to register AND TAX the guns, bows, pellet rifles, and any type of ammo used to “harvest” the excess squirrels.

      • 31337

        also remember to register and TAX mrcobaltblue’s weed and hand over his card to the phag (people/humans against guns) club.

      • Meanwhile, the democRAT population is INCREASING

      • Phillep Harding

        We already pay a 10% excise tax on guns and ammo. 10% excise.

        The politicians prefer to hire someone to go kill the extra squirrels, at an effective $100 per hour, paid for by tax payers, instead of allowing tax payers to collect a dollar or two worth of meat for themselves, at no expense to the other tax payers.

  • the rapture

    squirrel kabobs on the grill…yummy…someone call that weird food guy from the travel channel

    • German Leprechaun

      Confucius say… taste rike chicken!!

      • Sharon Pendleton

        All these postings are hilarious ! LOL!

      • ExposingMilitaryPoliceState

        Squirrel stories now? Unelected officials took over Washington and the media after the coup and cover up. Even most of the comments online are financed with your tax dollars. Big brother is trying to create the perception of public opinion while burying the truth. They think you can’t handle the truth. Fact of the matter is we have no democracy, president, and freedom of press is an illusion.

        Our next election is shaping up to be as big of a sham as the last. Do you know why Sarah Palin’s bus tour was really canceled? Do you know why she stayed 30 miles away from the second debate and chose the death of Steve Jobs to announce that she’s not running? Know what leaked out? Sarah Palin and Cain aren’t in the race for the same reason, the truth leaked out.

        Search PalinsDirtyLittleSecret for the biggest cover up in world history before it disappears forever.


    Long live Rocky & Bullwinkle !

  • eats tree rats

    A squirlel population with an eighty percent annual die off would be extinct by now. More bunk science.

    • Follow D. Truth

      Squirrels average 4 per litter and they can have more than one litter per year.

      Say there were 100 squirrels in your area and 80 were killed over the winter. If the surviving 20 (10 females) produce 4 squirrels per litter and two litters per year, then you’re back to 100 squirrels (10 x 4 x 2 + 20 survivors = 100 squirrels).

      • Bubba

        No, no. I am sure it must be more bunk science. That other guy sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

    • Safari King

      The last time I was in Africa. It was the black blacks that were cannibalistic and eating their own

  • pomoc

    I must say after watching these little critters for about 47 years or so this normal you so caklled expert.Get a real job.

  • Sweetmel

    Time to buy peanuts and drops them in my neighborhood

    • Bubba

      Time to buy peanuts and drops. Them (squirrels) in my yard.


      Time to buy peanuts and drop them in my yard.


  • slownewsday

    I say we give them tiny little spears and train them to duel to the death Star Trek-style.

  • Michael B

    No wonder they’ve been going nuts…

    • arkansas

      is squirrel nut tree oysters??

  • MJ

    What an idiotic story. First of all, these damn animals are rodents, so they breed like rodents. This is the case because in general rodents are near the bottom of the food chain. All this does is make more food for all of the animals that eat them, consequently helping their offspring possibly survive the first winter. Animal populations are constantly see-sawing back and forth like this. So basic….OH WAIT, it is definitely global warming running amok!! Save me Al Gore.

  • chester arthur

    I guess urban ecologist means complete amateur.Who raises baby squirrels?Adult squirrels.They don’t just hatch,and squirrels take pretty good care of their babies.This is filler,not a real story.

  • Blessed

    Actually, winter on average claims the lives of about 30 to 40 percent of adult squirrels. I’m surmising the percentages were increased in this article for the sake of drama, as in “OH NO! Now global warming is responsible for squirrel fights!”

  • George Johnson

    No problem here. I’m fattening them up as fast as I can!! Mmmmm Good!!

  • Einstein

    What species of Squirrel is this?

    • arkansas

      fightimus maximus?

  • John C

    Now tell the truth, which would you rather have move next to you, a squirrel or a redneck?

  • Cat in the Hat

    WEEEEEE HOOOO! In Kentucky, we chase squirrels with our veeehickles. Put on the brakes on ’em, and they are pre-skinned. Serve ’em up! WEEEE HOOO!

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