[Tweeters] Re: Where'd all - urban yard rats - misnomer?

Kelly McAllister mcallisters4 at comcast.net
Fri Mar 20 16:39:42 PDT 2009

When I look at many of Washington's urban and suburban areas, I see franchise businesses lined up in an often predictable sequence that has probably proven to conveniently and economically meet all of the consumer's needs. Homes are similarly lined up on predictably designed streets with predictably designed sidewalks, hydrants, power structures, etc. The yards have bright green lawns and a variety of ornamental trees and shrubs, many from far off places. The animals and birds running and flying about probably include a number of species that harken from Europe or eastern North America, like Opossums, Starlings, Eastern Gray Squirrels, and House Sparrows. So, where is the community identity? Where are the features that define the Pacific Northwest as a unique place? It's my preference to maintain those things that give our region uniqueness and the community of native species, taken as a whole, make this a unique place. Those things that are brought here from a far off place, that eventually displace our native species, serve to steal our uniqueness and that's a serious loss.

Kelly McAllister
----- Original Message -----
From: Stewart Wechsler
To: tweeters at u.washington.edu
Sent: Friday, March 20, 2009 3:40 PM
Subject: Re: [Tweeters] Re: Where'd all - urban yard rats - misnomer?

G. Neavoll wrote: "I don't think I've heard a more obnoxious term, referring to any of our beautiful squirrel species, than "urban yard rat.""

I also question the use of the term "yard" within the name for the species in question. I tend to think of a "yard" as a lawn. I would think a term beter indicating their arborial nature would make sense. Maybe those of us that live in parts of the country where Sciurus carolinensis is an abundant alien should call them "Alien Invader Bushy-tailed Tree Rodents". I confess, while I sometimes appreciate Eastern Gray Squirrels as cute individuals but my concern (predictable to all who know me) is that they almost surely have been harming native species.

A review of why I consider "Alien Invader Bushy-tailed Tree Rodents" problematic for anyone who wants to read it:
I don't know just which species have declined due to the otherwise cute Eastern Grays, but you can be sure that if they eat they, they eat things that in turn have likely declined and may still be declining in the face of the successful Eastern Gray Squirrel. Birders should be reminded that they eat bird eggs and chicks. I don't know which species are preyed on the most and which may be harder to find today in areas where Sciurus carolinensis has become abundant outside of it's native range. Whatever other animals ate the same foods are likely to have declined and may still be declining in the face of the successful immigrant Eastern Gray Squirrel. If they have diseases any animal that shares that disease is likely to have declined and could still be declining do to the immigrant species. When they plant Horsechestnut seeds they displace native trees that in turn supported native communities. Every change they make in our communities of plants and animals leads to more changes through the ecosystem, leading to more changes still.


Stewart Wechsler
-Ecological Consultant - Nature Guide
Naturalist - Botanist
206 932-7225
ecostewart at quidnunc.net
-Advice on the most site-appropriate native plants to maximize the site's potential for native biodiversity
-Educational programs, nature walks, and field trips for schools, public and private groups
-Botanical Surveys

----- Original Message -From: gneavoll at comcast.net Sent: Friday, March 20, 2009 10:35 AM
Subject: Fwd: [Tweeters] Re: Where'd all the urban yard rats go?

I don't think I've heard a more obnoxious term, referring to any of our beautiful squirrel species, than "urban yard rat." (This is nothing against those who use the term. They simply are repeating what they've heard.) I thought at first the reference was to us humans. That, at least, would have fit.

George Neavoll
S.W. Portland


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