After the American Revolution ended in the 1780s, the citizens of the new United States moved north of the Ohio River into the Northwest. As they established homes, they saw many gray, furry creatures known scientifically as sciurus carolinensis. It took little time for the farmers to discover that the gray squirrels were their new enemy. Instead of being cute little forest dwellers, the squirrels proved to be a danger to the newly transplanted farmers when the animals suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere appeared by the millions. The squirrels ate the freshly planted seeds, as well as the crops ready for harvest. As the animals passed through the Northwest in what became known as “squirrel movements” or “squirrel migrations,” the naturalists of the 18th and 19th centuries pondered the reasons for the mass movements of the creatures. Theories as to why the squirrels migrated ranged from the depletion of food sources to insect infestations of their nests to simple desires for new living spaces. The migrations made little sense to the humans in the Northwest but soon a war between the American farmers and the squirrels began over ownership of the western United States.

Meeting Name

British Animal Studies Network Conference (2019: Nov. 22-23, Leeds, United Kingdom)


History and Political Science

Document Type


Document Version

Final Version

File Type




Publication Date

23 Nov 2019