Five years ago, when Inman Park resident Jamie Allen was writing a short story about a dog obsessed with squirrels, it got him wondering how many of the fluffy-tailed rodents lived nearby. Of course, no one was keeping track, so he recruited some friends to help him take a count. The next year they raised $8,982 on Kickstarter—with MailChimp as a major supporter then and now—to conduct the inaugural “Squirrel Census” and produce posters of their findings. They’ve since lectured at colleges on how to use storytelling in science and made videos that acknowledge the quirkiness of the project. Last October a mostly volunteer group conducted the second census, which was released this spring, along with an app in which you too can report squirrel sightings. Allen eventually wants to survey New York’s Central Park.
The team—including an Emory epidemiologist—divided the neighborhood into 151 hectares in which they counted every squirrel twice a day for more than a month, using a formula devised by a Danish American biologist.
The whimsical survey includes a fold-out map, infographics, quirky stories, and anthropomorphic doodles.
“It does seem too silly or strange to believe people actually do it,” Allen says. “But it generates a conversation and gets people looking at the world in a different way.”
Allen’s group is currently lobbying for a squirrel emoji. Allen’s group is currently lobbying for a squirrel emoji.
By the numbers
Counting sessions from October 1 to November 12, 2015
Squirrels counted in 2015 census
average weight of Eastern gray squirrel
average tail length of Eastern gray squirrel
square miles in Inman Park
This article originally appeared in our October 2016 issue.