As mentioned in the introduction blog, rats are considered a pest that most people want to rid themselves of and do attempt to through various extermination methods. However, another common urban rodent is not widely seen as a pest that needs to be exterminated, the squirrel. After being suggested to research this topic, I found several interesting points brought up on the argument of pest or not a pest between these two rodents. Why do most people seem to consider rats as pests, but not squirrels? What exactly is the definition of a pest? Are rats and squirrels viewed differently in different areas? These are but a few questions I had when beginning to research this topic. I wanted to look into why rats were considered more of a pest than other animals, especially than another closely related rodent.
One thing that I believe must be done before continuing is defining what a “pest” is. Originally, when I made the first blog and discussed rats as being a pest, I associated the word more with pestilence, being of more regards to how rats are a common disease carrier. Merriam-Webster defines a pest as “an animal or insect that causes problems for people especially by damaging crops.” Which is a very broad and general definition, in which a multitude of animals would fall, including both rats and squirrels. With this definition in mind, I began to research more into both rodents.
First, I decided to research more into rats and their common view as a pest. Rats have been viewed as a pest for centuries, according to Dawn Biehler, rats have had a role in human suffering for centuries. Rats have been known to cause problems for humans for all of history. As early as the Mongols, people have avoided rats as fear of them carrying diseases. Rat control has been an issue that has been discussed and attempted for centuries. Rats destroy property, get into food and trash, chew through cables, and spread diseases, and for these reasons and many more, people see rats as a pest, and rightfully so.
Squirrels on the other hand are typically seen in a much better light. Most people love squirrels, for whatever their own reasons are. Even here at Virginia Tech, people love the squirrels, VT squirrels are even a very common topic on some social-medias, such as Yik Yak and snapchat. Instead of seeing squirrels as a pest, most people seem to see squirrels as cute little animals they would like to (and sometimes try to) have as a pet. However, there are some groups, especially farmers, which see squirrels as pests. When researching this topic, I saw countless articles from farmer’s almanac websites and other farming websites discussing how squirrels would destroy crops and become a nuisance. There are even websites discussing methods of keeping squirrels away from your property.
After doing research on both rodents, it seems like both should be considered as pests by the definition I found. I believe a common reason the average person does not see squirrels as pests, but do so with rats, is their public opinion. Rats are just seen as a disgusting animal that is associated with trash, disease, and other awful things, whereas squirrels are still seen just as a cute little animal that eats nuts. Not many people would consider a rat as a pet; however, many people continually try to domesticate squirrels. In addition, rats would never be seen in such a good light such as squirrels are on social-medias, such as VT squirrels are. While there are some efforts to limit squirrel populations, I do not believe it is nearly as big as the effort that cities put to exterminating their rat populations.
Based upon everything I was able to find, it seems that both rats and squirrels are equally as much of pests. However, it is more of a public opinion on why rats are hated, while squirrels are loved by many. I think this was an interesting topic to research during this series on rats, I believe it is able to compare and contrast common beliefs about an animal everyone sees as a pest, the rat, to one that not as many people see as a problem, squirrels. After seeing the multitudes of articles on pest control, I believe the history pest control for rats in itself should be an entire discussion itself.
“Pest.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
Biehler, Dawn. Pests in the City: Flies, Bedbugs, Cockroaches, and Rats. Seattle, Wash.: U of Washington, 2013. Print.