The Great Squirrel Invasion of 1822

Humans weren’t the only ones emigrating westward in the early days of the US.

Thanks to the diary of Calvin Fletcher and reminiscences of Oliver Johnson, we know about the Great Squirrel Invasion of 1822 in Indiana. (A subsequent invasion took place in 1845.)

In 1822, Indiana was beset by a scurry of squirrels, fleeing the East in search of food. They swam rivers. (Who knew that squirrels could swim!) Their weight broke tree branches. They descended on crops of corn like a swarm of locusts. Twelve squirrels would eat as much as a single hog.

The farmers fought back but were clearly no match for these squirrels. One farmer killed 248 on his farm within a three-day period. (Imagine the carnage on the battlefield!) Alas, this made little dent.

I haven’t found any description of how the invasion ended. Were most of the squirrels killed, did a kind of détente develop between humans and squirrels, or did the squirrels simply move on?

This squirrel invasion inspired the design of a hole at the mini golf course at the Indianapolis Museum of Art last year. And as proof that you can never quite get rid of squirrels, the squirrel-themed hole is back again this year at the art museum.

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