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Squirrels on crack – the Ranger’s special investigation.

Matthew Chatfield
Latest posts by Matthew Chatfield (see all)

This one you must have seen. In 2005, according to the Currant Bun, Brixton grey squirrels were becoming addicted to crack cocaine. The story went global, being picked up by the Guardian, countless blogs, and even Fox News. Almost all, including most of the US sources, reported something along these lines:

Crack squirrels are a recognised phenomenon in the US. They are known to live in parks frequented by addicts in New York and Washington DC.

A crazed squirrel (c) scary squirrel world

But is there any truth in this? I mean, just how likely is any of it? The only evidence offered to support this bizarre tale is that squirrels have been seen digging in gardens, which may or may not contain rocks of crack, and then at least one squirrel was subsequently seen

… ill-looking and its eyes looked bloodshot but it kept on desperately digging…

This does not sound like conclusive evidence to me. And of all the stories, it was the dear old Sun which actually asked the RSPCA what they thought, and they pointed out that

if a squirrel did open a bag of crack and start consuming it there is no doubt it would die pretty quickly.

There has been quite a bit of subsequent on-line debate, mostly in the US, about this story. But not a single item of corroborative evidence for this alleged ‘recognised phenomenon’ – and even a few denials. The Ranger’s investigation is complete. Frankly, dear readers, my conclusion is that the whole thing is nuts. This is why.

  • Even if crackheads are stashing their stuff in gardens – which sounds like an urban myth in itself – it’s not going to be that common an occurance. So the chances of a squirrel finding any such stash must be tiny. Admittedly it is possible that one squirrel may have found one stash, but a plague of the things? No.
  • If a squirrel were to chew up a rock of crack… surely that would kill the thing? The RSPCA think so, and so do I. Thus it is not going to be buzzing around thereafter, with red eyes or without, in a search for a fix, as it will have burnt out in a very brief blaze of glory.
  • Let me be honest here – I just can’t bring myself to accept any of the evidence offered in favour of this admittedly entertaining tale. It’s unlikely in the first place, and if the best argument in favour is that ‘it happens in America’ I don’t really buy it. Plus there is no unambiguous sign that it actually does happen in America, or anywhere.

The Ranger says: case dismissed. Nice try though!

First published 2006. Republished with corrections 2013.

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

One thought on “Squirrels on crack – the Ranger’s special investigation.

  • Rod Whiteman

    Maybe not crack, but I did once hear of urban squirrels becoming addicted to nicotine through chewing discarded cigarette butts. Apparently, the story went, when they could not get their fix they became aggressive and bad tempered.

    Does anyone know if this is true, or is it also an urban myth?

    Just in case, better not go upsetting any squirrels hanging around in office and hospital doorways.


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