18 June 2010
Bridge over troubled squirrels
Simon and Garfunkel would have a hard time retooling their original lyrics for the saga now taking place in Arizona: A $1.25 million federal grant is expected to help save lives of the area's endangered Mount Graham red squirrels through installation of 41 rope bridges that let the tiny critters traverse the highway below by safely going over it.
Unlike human motorists who cross over bridges all the time, driving like they might become endangered species at any moment, these little squirrels are indeed imperiled. The federal government declared them endangered back in 1987 and their fragile population has been carefully watched since then.
It seems the U.S. isn't the only place building bridges for troubled squirrels. Scotland's 300-foot-long Kingcausie Wildlife Overbridge, at the Aberdeen Bypass has the same goal, and in Longview, in the state of Washington, the "Nutty Narrows Bridge" has spanned 40 years - and all kinds of dangerous traffic on Olympic Way - to keep four-pawed pedestrians safe.
In each case, with each bridge, investments were made without any thought of gaining that money back by putting in itty-bitty toll plazas. No squirrels will be asked to toss any acorn-shaped tokens, or use anything like E-ZPass, before crossing to the other side.
No doubt this will cause bumper-to-bumper traffic and a whole new definition of rush-hour. These are great solutions, creative responses to a troubling problem, but there remains one still-unaddressed dilemma: What to do about all those bushytail-gaiters.