Just a few minutes ago, a colleague here at work brought me a collection of six photos that have become available through the Getty Images news service: they are beautiful portraits of squirrels. Some are clinging to trees, looking stately and squirrelly; others are just hanging out and have had their faces captured in glorious close-up. The photos show these animals with soft, intelligent eyes and inquisitve expressions on their faces, and are meant to accompany an announcement by the City of Santa Monica in California, that officials there have found a humane solution to the overpopulation of squirrels in Palisades Park.
The county wanted to solve the problem by trapping and euthanizing the animals (just imagine what this kind of governmental thinking might opt to do in an overpopulated Third World country!) but the city came up with an alternative - contraptive vaccines.
Well, squirrels have no ethical or religious doctrines against such interventions. And yes, they can be promiscuous from time to time.
Of course squirrels also have no health insurance coverage that might underwrite the cost of birth control. But the city, bless its collective heart, is picking up the tab. No squirrels will be harmed (just vaccinated) and, over time, the population should reduce considerably.
I'm not sure how I feel about manipulating the balance of nature like this but, seeing as an entire city was built long ago on land that was formerly wild, the balance of nature was actually tipped a long time ago. The best we humans can try to do is protect what's left by doing no harm, and particularly by not killing.
Maybe our neighbors in Britain, who have been killing grey squirrels as they imperil the native reds, should visit Santa Monica?