The Great Chicago Squirrel Census

UIC prof leading Chicago effort

By Steve Rhodes
|  Tuesday, May 5, 2009  |  Updated 10:20 AM CDT
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The Great Chicago Squirrel Census

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And how many bathrooms do you have in your home, Mr. Squirrel?

Calling the Midwest a "squirrel hot spot," a local researcher is embarking on what we'll call the Great Chicago Squirrel Census - and he needs your help.

Steve Sullivan, an "urban ecologist" at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is calling on all Chicagoans to participate by logging squirrel sightings on his Project Squirrel website.

"Count the squirrels near your house as you leave for work, count the ones you see on your lunch break," Sullivan says.

"In addition to being interesting animals to watch, squirrels can tell us a lot about our local environment and how it is changing," the site says under photos of a grey squirrel in Lincoln Park and a fox squirrel in Brookfield. "To gain this insight, we must gather data about as many individual squirrels in as many places as possible. This is where you come in; you can be a Citizen Scientist."

The form where citizens report their squirrel sightings asks for their zip code, along with observations such as if dogs and cats are abundant at the location of a sighting and if squirrels are seen "obtaining" food in the area from garbage, bird feeders, or people.

You can also share your squirrel stories and squirrel photos (like one up there now with the caption "A red squirrel stops for a quick snack.")

Project Squirrel actually got its start in 1997, but the citizen census initiative just started in March.

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