In the spirit of the election season and the debate about to start in an hour or so, it’s only fitting that this week’s installment of Squirrel Wednesday should focus on the little gray guys who populate the parks of Washington, D.C. The Salisbury Post has provided a history of the squirrels’ fortunes and misfortunes in our nation’s capital:

A little more than a century ago, the District of Columbia’s downtown parks didn’t have a squirrel population to speak of, according to accounts from the time. Eastern gray squirrels are native to the area, but they had been largely wiped out in the urban parts of town by the late 19th century because of hunting.

Looking to fill the squirrel vacuum, nature lovers, government officials and other civic-minded residents in the early 1900s pushed to have areas including Lafayette Square, the U.S. Capitol grounds and the Mall stocked with squirrels. “Several Pairs of Interesting Little Animals to Be Set Free Among the Trees” read a 1901 headline in The Washington Post, announcing plans by the Architect of the Capitol.

The Interesting Little Animals throve and were much beloved and protected by the locals:

Like so many Washingtonians, these early squirrels were transplants, and they were public servants in a way as well, brought here to satisfy a public eager for the pleasure of having squirrels in its parks. Squirrels in Lafayette Square quickly became a beloved fixture, attracting locals who fed them faithfully and marveled at their antics. Squirrel houses and iron receptacles for drinking water were installed.

But then, half a century later, a certain president decided he wasn’t much of a fan:

In 1955, White House squirrels were scratching up President Dwight Eisenhower’s private putting green on the lawn just outside his office. Messing with America’s First Golfer is not a good idea. The White House squirrel patrol was put on high alert and launched “Operation Squirrel,” which culminated in the trapping and relocation of three resident squirrels.

News of the covert op reached the news media, and a public outcry ensued. Sen. Richard Neuberger, D-Ore., launched a drive to save the White House squirrels, ponying up $25 to start a fund for a fence around the green. Within days, the White House announced that Operation Squirrel was over.

Mmm hmm, persecuted by a Republican president and saved by the Democrats. I always knew squirrels were blue at heart!

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