Theories abound as to the origin of the black squirrels commonly seen in Inwood.This we do know. During the Presidency of Teddy Roosevelt 18 black Canadian squirrels were released at the National Zoo. Before long, DC was literally crawling with the little black critters.
Richard W. Thorington Jr., a Smithsonian Institution researcher working on a book that includes a history of the District’s black squirrels, said in an interview with the Washington Post, “It shows the spread of a gene within a population. That is evolutionary change before your eyes.”
But the notes kept in the Smithsonian archives are threadbare, stating only, “In 1902, and then again in 1906, the zoo got black squirrels from “the department of crown lands” in Ontario.”
The black squirrels spread to New York within a few short years,
but paybacks are hell. In 1909 New York City Mayor William Jay Gaynor donated eight pairs of the invasive little critters to the City of Vancouver where they today have come to dominate the landscape.
Genetics play a huge role in the rapid spread of black squirrels to other small pockets of the nation. Scientists believe that in the winter time the black coats allow the black squirrels to retain sunlight and hence warmth much more effectively than their grey cousins.
According to Thorington, “If you can do it with solar heat, you don’t need quite as much metabolic heat,” and, therefore, need less food.”
Another huge black squirrel population resides in Kent, Ohio, home to Kent State University. In 1961, ten black Canadian squirrels were imported to Kent where they quickly took over. But if you can’t beat them, join them. Each year Kent State University holds a Black Squirrel Festival.
Now that the back squirrels have established themselves in Inwood, they are likely here to stay.
Eventually, scientists believe, black squirrels may outnumber our traditional squirrel population.