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Alaska Squirrel Foundation wants more than just peanuts from lawmakers

Craig Medred
Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife photo

Editor's note: Although it may seem plausible, the following is a work of satire. The only thing below that's not a complete fabrication is that the Alaska Moose Federation has been granted additional funding from the Alaska Legislature.

Noting the success of the Alaska Moose Federation in obtaining an additional $1.5 million from the Alaska Legislature to help save moose, the executive director of the Alaska Squirrel Federation says he is gearing up a sales pitch for the next legislative session, although he wishes he had some help from the state now.

"We're coming up on a bad time for squirrels," Jonathon Allbuhl said Monday. "They will be breeding soon. That will force mama and papa squirrel to be out all the time running around trying to find enough food for the kids, and when they do that, they risk being run down themselves.

"Do you realize how many squirrels are struck and killed by motor vehicles in this state ever year?" he asked.

Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have put the number at more than 40,000. Alaska State Troopers estimate the damages at $5,000 per accident on average. There have been some nasty incidents in which the greasy remains of a dead squirrel beneath a tire has caused a car to skid off the road and hit a tree. According to authorities, there have as yet been no deaths reported, but there have been serious injuries.

Allbuhl suggested this might be prevented if Fish and Game were to issue the Squirrel Federation a permit to set up squirrel feeding stations designed to draw squirrels away from roads. The federation has been requesting public donations to help buy nuts.

"If we can get these feeding stations up and operating," Allbuhl said, "it would be good for both squirrels and motorists."

He is, however, no starry-eyed visionary. No matter how well the squirrel feeding stations work, he said, there are still going to be collisions between motor vehicles and squirrels. The squirrels, he added, are invariably the big losers.

"It breaks my heart to think how many baby squirrels are orphaned by cars about this time every year," he said. "If we could just get $1 million, or maybe even $500,000, from the Legislature, we could go to the sites of these accidents, scour the woods around and probably find a lot of these orphans. Squirrel rearing protocols are well established. We could save a lot of squirrels.

"Not only that, if we saved a lot of squirrels; we'd have a lot of squirrels to transplant. We could could move squirrels to the parts of the state with squirrel shortages. Everyone seems to forget that squirrels are a vital player in the food chain in Alaska. Along the Innoko River, for instance, the squirrel population has crashed. This, in turn, has caused a huge drop in the number of marten in the area, and marten are the mainstay of local trappers. Most of them are now on welfare.

"It's probably costing the state more in welfare payments to trappers than legislators would spend on our plan to save more squirrels, an idea which should be good for everyone," he said.

For more information on the federation, visit the website savemoresquirrels.org.

Alaska Dispatch encourages a diversity of opinion and community perspectives. The opinions expressed herein are those of the contributor and are not necessarily endorsed or condoned by Alaska Dispatch. Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com