In April of 1918, while young boys were off in France fighting the Germans, the state of California enlisted tiny soldiers in the form of young school children to fight another war…
*cue drum roll*
The Great Squirrel War of 1918
The ferocious and furry little ground squirrel (not to be confused with their innocent and harmless close relative, the tree squirrel) was a scourge to the crops of California and ate an estimated $40 million worth of crops a year.
And this is 1918 money, so think of how much more that would be today…
The squirrels also were flea-ridden and the fleas spread bubonic plague.
In 1918 California, NOBODY loved a ground squirrel.
The state used a small amount of money (about $40,000) from the war fund coffers to begin an anti-squirrel publicity blitz.
They printed up and distributed thousands and thousands of pamphlets and posters. The campaign sought to stir up patriotism in California’s youngsters. And just in case civic duty wasn’t enough, the government also offered quite a bit of money to elementary schools and high schools whose children killed the most squirrels (they had to cut of the tails and bring them in as proof).
Thus began a seven-day squirrel-killing frenzy known as Squirrel Week.
Here’s one of the posters….
I promised you pictures of squirrels in pickelhauben, didn’t I? I like to keep my promises.
It seems the attempted mass genocide of the ground squirrel was even endorsed by Herbert Hoover himself.
If that doesn’t get you to want to kill a squirrel dead, what will?
The anti-squirrel campaign also had volunteers go around California and deliver speeches to rally public support for the war effort…the squirrel war effort that is…not that other war happening overseas.
Some of the slogans were:
“The only good squirrel is a dead squirrel.”
“The squirrel does not recognize daylight savings. He uses it all.” <—-I don’t really get the point of this one, but for some reason I still find it hilarious. “Kill the furry little friend of the Kaiser!!” “Poison ’em, gas ’em, drown ’em, shoot ’em, trap ’em, submarine ’em!” This pamphlet below is one of my favorites….
Inside it there was an easy-to-follow children’s recipe for making strychnine-laced grain. The pamphlet also included other extermination ideas such as drowning and poison gas.
C’mon children, let’s make some poison! Don’t know how to drown a critter? It’s easy! Lemme show you how!
Geez. I can’t imagine the government doing this today.
Well wait, Trump is the president of the USA now so maybe it’s not too..NO LEAH, BAD LEAH, NO POLITICAL TALK.
Anyway…the Great Squirrel War of 1918 was considered a success, there were over a 100,000 casualties. In fact, so many children were sending in squirrel tails that the horticulturist commissioner had to finally ask them to stop because his office was beginning to smell terribly.
But, today the war continues. Ground squirrels are still rampant in California and are a blight to crops.
So really, in my opinion, California may have won the battle but ground squirrels won the war.
One more before I go…..
Because you can never have enough pictures of a squirrel wearing a spiked German military helmet.