Valley City’s Gray Squirrels
Valley City, North Dakota: home to Valley City State University, the North Dakota Winter Show, the Hi-Liners, and an interesting population of gray squirrels.
Most North Dakotans are familiar with the fox squirrel. They are quite common and range virtually over the entire state. The gray squirrel on the other hand is generally less abundant and found mainly in the eastern 1/4 of the state although it can be found occasionally further west. So, you would expect Valley City to support a preponderance of fox squirrels and perhaps a few gray squirrels. But that is not the case. It is all gray squirrels in Valley City, but they are surrounded by fox squirrels.
This subject came up recently when I visited with Dr. Bob Anderson, a wildlife professor at VCSU. He noted that he has seen the gray squirrels regularly but has yet to see a fox squirrel in the city. He also provided me with some interesting information on the gray squirrels.
In the early 1900′s several gray squirrels were introduced to Valley City. Valley City resident Wes Anderson has a newspaper clipping from the Valley City Times Record from around 1910. The article “More Squirrels for City Park” reads:
“Through the efforts of Herman Winterer, members of the state game board and Robert Burt, district game warden, another dozen of the fine gray squirrels were secured for the city park. The squirrels arrived in the city last evening and were taken at once by Mr. Burt and turned loose. Those placed there last season are getting along very fine but most of them have taken up their abode in Normal Park addition and seem to especially thrive in the thick timber of the Normal. The last shipment was from northern New York and will thrive in this climate. The people of the city should appreciate the efforts of these officials and should see that the animals are protected.”
It is interesting to note that Vernon Bailey in his A Biological Survey of North Dakota (1926) noted that gray squirrels were found only along the Red River with the exception of the apparent introductions in Valley City.
It is assumed the gray squirrels are keeping the fox squirrels out of the city. Apparently there is only room for one of these species in Valley City these days. Whatever the reason, the gray squirrels of Valley City continue to be an interesting but unnatural part of our Natural North Dakota.
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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