Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Squirrel Facts: The Endangered Vancouver Island Marmot

Marmots are a group of large ground squirrels. There are fourteen species of marmot, most of which live in mountainous habitats of North America, Europe, and Asia.

The Vancouver Island marmot is notable because it is the rarest of the marmots, and is considered one of the most critically endangered species of North America. It is found in high, south- or southwest-facing alpine meadows of Vancouver island, at an altitude of over 1000 meters. Over the past few decades, the species has disappeared completely from about two-thirds of its former range, and aggressive conservation efforts are underway to ensure the survival of the species.

This species of marmot is quite unique in appearance. It has a thick, rich chestnut-brown coat with a creamy white patch around the nose and down to the throat. Usually there is a mottled white streak along the chest and belly. The tail is somewhat bushy. The Vancouver Island marmot is similar in size to a medium to large housecat, weighing up to about fifteen pounds, although its weight may vary considerably by season due to hibernation.

Vancouver Island marmots live in colonies made up of one or more families. Families consist usually of one adult male, one or two adult females, and the offspring of those females born during that year. The colony lives in a complex network of underground burrows. These marmots hibernate from late September to early May. During hibernation the entrances to the burrows are sealed with plugs made of mud and grass. Mating occurs in spring and litters, usually born in July, consist of about three pups.

Vancouver Island marmots are herbivores, and are known to eat around fifty different kinds of plants, usually focusing on grasses in spring and other plants later in summer and early fall.

Even in the best of times, the required habitat for the Vancouver Island marmot is rare. In recent decades, declines have been accelerated by habitat disruption due to logging, development of some habitat areas for ski resorts, increases in the population of wolves, and weather fluctuations likely due to global warming. By 1997 the species had become so rare that wildlife managers began to capture some individuals for captive breeding in zoos, with the goal of releasing offspring back into the wild. In 2003 a census found only 21 individuals surviving in the wild. However, since that time over 300 marmots have been rereleased, and in 2010 a survey estimated about 250-300 individuals surviving. More releases are planned for the future in the hope of building up the numbers.

There is an organization, the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Foundation, that is dedicated to the recovery of the marmot population in the wild. You can learn more about their efforts or donate at their web site.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Squirrel Facts: The Indian Giant Squirrel

The Indian giant squirrel, also called the Malabar giant squirrel, has its name for a very good reason: this is the largest tree squirrel species on earth. It's head and body is about sixteen inches long (compared to around ten inches for an eastern gray squirrel), it's tail can be up to two feet long, and it weighs around 4.4 pounds. This is also one of the world's most beautiful squirrels, having a two or three tone color scheme with shades of black, brown, and beige. Squirrels of this species in different areas of India have different color schemes.

The Indian giant squirrel is very shy and secretive. Despite its size, it is more often heard than seen in the evergreen and mixed deciduous forests of central and southern India where it lives. It generally stays high in the forest canopy, rarely leaving the trees. Using its long tail for stability, this squirrel can leap from tree to tree, covering distances up to twenty feet. When it feels threatened by a predator, such as a leopard or a bird of prey, it will often freeze or press itself against a tree trunk to remain inconspicuous. It may also quietly descend the tree trunk and disappear into the underbrush to get away.

The habits of the Indian giant squirrel are quite similar to those of other tree squirrels such as the eastern gray. They usually live alone or in pairs, and are diurnal (active during the day) and herbivorous. They build large globe-shaped dreys of sticks as high as possible in the trees. A single squirrel will often have two or three nests, with one being reserved specifically for giving birth and nursing the young.

As you can see in the photo above, the tail is probably the most startling and beautiful feature of this squirrel. Longer than it's entire body, the large tail acts as a balance and rudder, allowing the Indian giant squirrel to move about quickly, running and jumping on surprisingly thin branches very high in the forest canopy, where it feels most at home.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Someone Is Poisoning Squirrels and Dogs In Chicago

While I'm on the subject of evil amoral jerks poisoning animals, it seems that some unknown person is indiscriminately setting out squirrel poison in a couple of neighborhoods in Chicago. So far four dogs have died in the Rogers Park and Edgewater neighborhoods. Nobody knows how many squirrels and other animals have been killed, but I'm sure its plenty. According to Chicago Now blogger Steve Dale, the intent of the unknown poisoner--whether to poison dogs, or squirrels, or just whatever happens to come along--is a mystery. What is not a mystery is that the person, whoever it might be, is an asshole and a coward.

Dale points out that Chicago does not have a squirrel overpopulation problem--that in fact, in many parts of the city the population of squirrels seems to have declined in recent years. I find the very idea that there is a product that exists specifically for the killing of squirrels to be disturbing and offensive. Even if there were a valid reason to poison squirrels--keep in mind that if you were killing squirrels for food, this stuff would render the squirrel inedible--how would one specifically target squirrels without risk to peoples' pets and other wildlife?

Here is a picture of the poison, which apparently acts as a powerful anticoagulant which causes the animal that ingests it to internally hemorrhage to death. Wherever you might be, if you see something like this outside in your neighborhood, keep pets and children away from it, report it to local authorities, and if you clean it up please use gloves for your safety.

My Letter To Scotts Miracle-Gro

Following up on my earlier post on Scotts Miracle-Gro's deliberate poisoning of birds with their birdseed products, I have sent the following email to the company. If you would like to contact Scotts Miracle-Gro, you can do so here.

Dear Scotts Miracle-Gro Company,

I am writing to express my outrage at finding out that your company knowingly and deliberately sold poisoned bird seed during the years 2007 and 2008.

I am a wildlife enthusiast who has occasionally used your products in the past. Later this spring I will be moving into a home with my family. I am looking forward to working in the yard and garden, and to feeding birds and squirrels in the yard. I can promise that I will never use your company's products.

You have not only deliberately and knowingly caused the deaths of birds, rodents, squirrels, and whatever other living things have eaten your poison. You have also betrayed the thousands of people who bought your products out of their love of wildlife. It sickens me to think that I may have used your birdseed during the time that you were polluting it with your poison, and that any animals may have suffered and died as a result.

You should be ashamed. But then, I'm sure you couldn't care less as long as the profits keep rolling in. I just hope that this matter will be publicized enough that you lose a substantial number of customers.

I have blogged on this matter at

and tweeted @squirrelbeebz and will continue to do my part to make sure that your callous disregard for wildlife is publicized.

Oh, and I didn't know until today that your company is a distributor of Monsanto's consumer Roundup, which is another reason to never do business with you again.

Scotts Miracle-Gro Sold Poison Bird Seed

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is one of the largest producers of lawn and garden products in the world. Among its products are such widely recognized brands as Miracle-Gro and Ortho. Scotts also distributes the consumer Roundup manufactured by Monsanto.

Scotts also produces wild bird food under the brand names Morning Song, Country Pride, and Scotts Songbird Selections. On March 13, Scotts Miracle-Gro entered guilty pleas in US District Court in Ohio for knowingly selling birdseed that was poisoned with the pesticides Storcide II and Actellic 5E, neither of which is approved by the EPA for use in bird foods. Their use was a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA. More importantly, their use likely sickened and killed an unknown number of songbirds and other wildlife.

The pesticides were applied to prevent the birdseed from being infested with insects during shipping and storage. However, both pesticides contain active ingredients that are labeled as being toxic to fish, birds, and wildlife. The ingredients are known to cause overstimulation to the nervous system, that in small doses can cause nausea, dizziness, and confusion, and in higher doses, paralysis and death.

The very real dangers from the use of this product can be seen in a case in San Diego, California, where a couple purchased a package of Morning Song bird food for use in their outdoor aviary. Almost 100 birds died as a result, nearly their whole flock. Also killed were "dozens of field mice" that ate the seed.

What is worst about this case is that Scotts Miracle-Gro was warned about this problem by two of its employees, one a pesticide chemist and the other an ornithologist, as early as summer of 2007. And yet the company knowingly manufactured and sold the products with the prohibited and dangerous pesticides for almost another year. The products were only pulled from the market in 2008 when the company came under investigation by the federal government for falsifying pesticide registration documents on two other products, and likely feared that the investigation would reveal the illegal pesticide use in the birdseed.

Scotts has pleaded guilty, and is hoping to quietly reach a settlement with the court on a fine, which would include a $500,000 donation for wildlife study and preservation, so that the company can move on and be done with this matter. Whatever fine is imposed will not begin to make up for the suffering and deaths of the birds and other wildlife that ate the companies poison, or the betrayal that the company committed to the wildlife lovers who purchased the products.

I believe it is likely that I bought Scotts' bird seed during the period that the poison was included, and it absolutely sickens me to think that by doing so I might have unwittingly caused the deaths of any birds or squirrels that came to my feeders.

Regardless of whatever fine is imposed on Scotts Miracle-Gro--the higher the better--I hope that this case is well enough publicized that it will cost the company a substantial amount of business. I can promise that I will never buy one of their products as long as I live. And I hope that anyone else who reads this will do the same.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stop Cull of Gray Squirrels in Scotland

I have written before on this blog about the tragic situation with the Eurasian red and eastern gray squirrels in Great Britain. Although I can honestly see both sides of the debate over culling of gray squirrels, I do not think culling provides a long-term solution to the problem, and thus the likely results do not justify the killing and the cruelty that would be inflicted on the grays in Britain.

There is now an online petition on asking the Scottish Wildlife Trust to halt the culling of gray squirrels in Scotland. I hope that you will sign this petition. I also hope that you will read the text under "Why This Is Important" before signing. I'll summarize some of the key points as to why culling is not a solution:

  • Reducing the numbers of a species (in this case, gray squirrels) by culling improves the availability of resources, which will cause the numbers of that species to rebound very quickly through more successful breeding.
  • Also, neighboring populations from outside the cull area will move in to replace the population that is lost through killing. The increase in mobility through this process could actually increase the spread of squirrel pox virus which has been so devastating to red squirrels.
  • For the reasons above, culling can actually, in a fairly short time, actually increase the population density of the culled species and make the situation even worse, for both the reds and grays, through overpopulation.

The gray squirrel is now found throughout most of Great Britain. Culling in Scotland is a short-term approach that can not resolve this situation. There is no way that a regional cull can eliminate gray squirrels because as soon as the killing stops in any local area, the population of grays will rebound and probably even increase.

In my opinion, culling of gray squirrels is nothing but pointless cruelty. Baby squirrels will be left to die in their dreys when their mothers are killed. Countless squirrels will be trapped and shot or drowned, with no real long-term benefit to the red squirrel population.

The decline of the red squirrel in Great Britain is tragic, but culling of gray squirrels is not a solution. Such a cruel and ineffective measure will only increase the tragedy. Please take action and sign the petition.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Canuck Anti-Squirrel Propaganda

I've always thought of Canada as a relatively enlightened, reasonable nation. But I guess you'll find extremists anywhere you look. So here is the "Canadu Broadcasting Corporation," a right-wing anti-squirrel blogger spreading hate speech about our bushy-tailed friends to the world.

What did I ever do to you?

But it's okay. Squirrel Nation is on alert, and what these anti-sciurid Canuck Conservatives don't realize is that there are a lot more squirrels than squirrel-haters in the Great White North, and the squirrels have human friends in Canada as well.

And by the way, if your tulips are so important to you, then how about planting some nut trees in your park!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Squirrels Eat 10,000 Tulips in Ontario Park

This winter, squirrels ate almost half of the 20,000 tulip bulbs in Jackson Park, Windsor, Ontario. The tulips are a popular local attraction, especially as a location for wedding parties. This winter, however, the weather was so mild that the squirrels were able to dig into the unfrozen ground and get to the bulbs.


According to the article the problem was exacerbated by a lack of nut trees in the park, which drove the squirrels to seek alternative food sources. Now the city will have to pay to replace the lost tulip bulbs, and brides hoping to have their photos taken with the tulips as a backdrop this spring will be disappointed.

The solution is clear: from now on, to save the tulip display, at the beginning of each winter the city of Windsor should coat the grounds surrounding the tulip gardens with a nice thick layer of mixed nuts.

18th Century Women and Their Squirrels

I ran across this interesting post about portraits of 18th Century American Women posing with squirrels. This seems to have been something of a fad at the time.

The author speculates about whether the squirrels are real, or are copied from emblem books and included in the portraits for some sort of symbolic purpose. It certainly seems likely that the squirrels were copied from books--just try getting a squirrel to sit still long enough for a portrait--it is also true that many among the upper class during this period were fascinated with the eastern gray squirrel. It was not uncommon to trap squirrels and keep them as pets. Benjamin Franklin was a squirrel enthusiast who even took squirrels with him to England to give as gifts to friends.

Of course, among the lower classes, particularly in rural areas, the gray squirrel was looked at more as a source of food than as a pet. It would be fascinating to make a more in-depth study of the relationship between the colonial-period Americans and the gray squirrel.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Squirrel Facts: Saving the San Bernardino Flying Squirrel

Update April 3, 2014: Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service for failing in its obligation to protect the San Bernardino flying squirrel under the Endangered Species Act. Here's wishing the Center for Biological Diversity good luck in this action, and hope that it brings help quickly before we lose this wonderful squirrel forever!

The San Bernardino flying squirrel is a subspecies of the northern flying squirrel. It lives in high conifer forests in the mountains of southern California. Like other flying squirrels, this small nocturnal squirrel uses a membrane that stretches between its wrists and ankles to glide up to 300 feet between trees in search of food.

Unfortunately, the San Bernardino flying squirrel has declined in numbers in recent decades and may be in danger of disappearing altogether. In 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the federal Fish and Wildlife Service to list the squirrel as an endangered species threatened by global climate change.

It is believed that the species has already disappeared from part of its range, the San Jacinto Mountains, and is now restricted to the higher elevations of the San Bernardino Mountains. And even on those peaks, its territory is gradually shrinking due to the effects of global warming.

The San Bernardino flying squirrel depends on cool, wet old-growth forests with plenty of big trees, fallen logs and large tangles where it can find its primary food, truffle fungus. In recent decades, harmful forest management practices that call for removal of downed trees and snags, and the spread of suburban development, have encroached on this habitat. Now the remaining territory is shrinking as rising temperatures and drought drive the squirrel to higher elevations.

Fortunately, there may be some relief in sight. Earlier this year the Fish and Wildlife Service issued an initial positive decision to protect the San Bernardino flying squirrel under the Endangered Species Act. Although this is not a final decision, it brings the squirrel a step closer to protection. A positive final decision would prevent further development on remaining habitat and could help make a case for additional restrictions on carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Introducing RoboSquirrel

Meet RoboSquirrel...

He(?) is a robotic California ground squirrel. His skin is a real squirrel skin, and when he is not working, he is kept in an actual captive squirrel nest so that he will have the scent of a real squirrel.

RoboSquirrel was developed as part of a joint project by the Behavioral Ecology Lab at San Diego State University and the Robotics Engineering Lab at the University of California at Davis. His job is to help researchers study the predator-prey interactions between California ground squirrels and rattlesnakes.

Ground squirrels and rattlesnakes have lived in close proximity for thousands of years in California. Scientists have known for years about certain adaptations that the squirrels have evolved to help them avoid becoming snake food. They have developed a moderate degree of resistance to snake venom, so that they can often survive being bitten. They also have developed what may seem like an odd behavior: when it detects a rattlesnake in its vicinity, a squirrel does not flee but instead confronts the snake face-to-face and waves its tail back and forth, a behavior known as tail flagging. Here is a video to demonstrate:

When a squirrel engages in tail flagging, it also heats up its tail--I'm not sure how this is done, but I assume it somehow increases the blood flow to the tail.

What scientists don't understand is how tail flagging helps the squirrel avoid being bitten by a rattlesnake. RoboSquirrel will help scientists study how this behavior works, without exposing real squirrels to danger. After identifying a real rattlesnake in the field of vision of a remote control camera, they can send in RoboSquirrel to confront the snake. They can program the robot to either flag its tail, or to face the snake without tail flagging (something a real ground squirrel would never do) and compare the results. They can also change the rate of tail flagging.

Here is a video of one of the very early experiments with RoboSquirrel:

You can read more about this fascinating work at the robotics blog Hizook, and also at the rattlesnake behavior blog Strike, Rattle, & Roll, which promises to give updates on the project in the future.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Coast and Canyon: Squirrel Friends in California

Coast and Canyon is a nonprofit wildlife rehab center in Malibu, California. Not only do they do great and important work rescuing and rehabilitating baby squirrels and other wildlife for release back into the wild--they also have an awesome website. Seriously, when you go to a site and this is the first thing you see...

you know you've found a winner.

Their site also features awesome videos of squirrels that they have worked with, and even a live baby squirrel cam...

Live Video streaming by Ustream

So definitely visit their site, check out the work that they do. They have a link there where you can shop at Amazon and they will receive a portion of the sales. Or if you have the means, you can donate to them directly!

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Importance of Prairie Dogs

A couple of days ago I wrote about the plan of the town of Frederick, Colorado to slaughter its population of black-tailed prairie dogs. I hope that you will take a moment to use the widget on the top right of this page to sign a petition asking town officials to reconsider their plans, which are already well underway.

I also hope that you will take a look at this page, by the Prairie Dog Coalition, which details some of the incredible benefits that the black-tailed prairie dog brings to the prairie and plains ecosystem. Prairie dogs are a vital component of a complex ecosystem, a "keystone" species which is important to the survival of ecosystem as a whole. Numerous other species are either dependent on or benefit from the presence of prairie dogs. The activities of prairie dogs aid in water conservation, soil aeration, provide shelter and sustenance for other species, control the spread of invasive and damaging plant species, and reverse much of the damage done to the environment by the grazing of cattle. Their burrowing actually increases the amount of vegetation that is most nutritous for cattle and other grazing species.

The south plains of northwestern Texas is one of the remaining strongholds of the black-tailed prairie dog, and is also the part of the world where I grew up, and will soon be moving back to. The population of black-tailed prairie dog has already been decimited--because of deliberate mass-extermination by humans, especially ranchers, the species was driven to the brink of extinction in the 1970s and has lost more than 95 percent of its population.

The prairie dog is not a rodent pest. It is a highly sociable, intelligent ground squirrel. Members of prairie dog colonies cooperate in almost all activities. They groom each other, help one another in caring for their young, watching for predators, and finding and storing food. They have a sophisticated communication system that includes signals and vocalizations with highly specific meanings, and are even capable of coining new "words" to apply to changing needs and circumstances.

The policies adopted by Frederick and other plains and prairie communities are based largely on misconceptions about prairie dogs: that they are "pests" or "vermin", that they compete with cattle for food resources (not true) and damage the foundations of homes (very rare, since prairie dogs are wary of humans and avoid living adjacent to houses). It would be extraordinarily sad if the prairie dog disappeared from the prairies and plains of North America.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Martin Picard Is an Asshole

A few days ago I posted my reaction to a new cookbook by Canadian chef Martin Picard, in particular on his recipe for "squirrel sushi" in which the squirrel meat is served in a grotesque presentation with the squirrel's head, paws and tail. In the post, I noted Picard's statement that he is "very respectful of animals" and that this statement seems at odds with the hideous spectacle of the squirrel and beaver dishes in the new cookbook.

So I was not the least bit surprised today to see this quote by Mr. Picard in a review of his new book:

“Squirrels are all over the place here. But squirrels also eat all the pipes and tubing in the forest used to pipe in the sap. It’s terrible. They’re a nuisance, just a f---ing rat with a fur coat on. But it’s also great meat.”


I'm not a chef, but it seems self-evident to me that one of the characteristics of a world-class chef is respect (real respect, not just self-serving lip service) for the ingredients, especially the animals, that make up the dishes that one prepares. I have never tried any of Picard's concoctions, and I guarantee that I never will, even if I am ever able to afford to dine at his restaurant, because I have no desire to eat the food of a chef who has nothing but contempt for his ingredients.

Colorado Town Preparing to Slaughter Prairie Dogs

The town of Frederick, Colorado is planning a mass slaughter of thousands of prairie dogs. In fact, the carnage has probably already begun. Local officials recently decided to begin the extermination of two large colonies of the sociable ground squirrels from undeveloped land on March 5, having hired an extermination company which plans to use the chemical aluminum phosphide to treat the burrows (the article states that the chemical is aluminum phosphate, but that is probably an error).

One of the victims

But what is even worse is that the town is forcing resident landowners to participate in this slaughter. As of March 1, residents who have prairie dogs on their land are required to "remove" the prairie dogs. After a 30 day warning period, the residents will be fined up to one thousand dollars if they have failed to remove the animals. This means that even if the landowners have no objection to the prairie dogs living on their land, and even if they do morally object to killing the animals, they have to go along with the execution or pay the exorbitant penalty.

There are many reasons to oppose this law. Prairie dogs are sociable, intelligent animals that will suffer horribly as they are killed. They occupied the land long before the town of Frederick existed. The chemicals that will be used are not only cruel, but can also damage the environment and threaten the health of other species including humans. And even if the town leaders insist on carrying out this act on municipal land, to force landowners to participate in this killing is even more contemptible. If you agree, you can sign a petition directed to the town leaders of Frederick, CO asking them to reconsider this act.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Squirrel Facts: The Siberian Flying Squirrel

Since the last couple of posts on this blog have been kind of grim, I thought a bit of squirrel cuteness overload would be appropriate. So in this spirit I present... the Siberian flying squirrel!

The Siberian flying squirrel is notable for being very similar to the Japanese dwarf flying squirrel, which has been proclaimed by The News For Squirrels as officially the cutest thing in the universe. As the photo above shows, the Siberian flying squirrel is a very close first runner up.

The Siberian flying squirrel is found in forests of older pine, cedar and spruce trees from the Baltic Sea in the east to the Pacific coast in the west. They usually nest in abandoned woodpecker holes, but will sometimes use birdhouses. The nest is lined usually with lichen. This squirrel's diet consists of leaves, seeds, pinecones, nuts, buds, and berries. Like the eastern gray squirrel, the Siberian flying squirrel will also occasionally eat birds' eggs or even nestlings, if other food is scarce.

The length of the Siberian flying squirrel, including the tail, ranges from around five inches to almost nine inches. The female is usually a bit larger than the male. It is gray all over, with the belly a slightly lighter shade than the back. The shade of gray becomes slighter lighter in winter. The most noticeable feature is the huge black eyes. The large size of the eyes is necessary for this nocturnal squirrel to see at night.

Hey, who turned on the lights!

Like other flying squirrels, the Siberian flying squirrel glides from one tree trunk to another using a membrane, the patagium, that stretches like wings between each of the fore and hind legs. Their gliding ability helps it to escape from predators and to move from tree to tree in search of food without having to leave the trees. It is believed that many Siberian flying squirrels will spend their entire lives in the trees without ever touching the ground.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

The World's Creepiest Chef?

As I've said before on this blog, I am not morally or politically opposed to eating meat. I have been a part time, on-and-off vegetarian over the last three years or so. I do feel strongly that western countries seriously need to reduce their consumption of meat. I believe that meat should be at most just one component of ones diet, not the central focus of it. I am uncomfortable with those who make a fetish of meat and glorify the killing of animals. And I abhor modern factory farming and other needlessly cruel methods of raising and slaughtering of animals for food.

Which is why I am bothered by the popularity of Canadian chef Martin Picard. I had never heard of chef Picard until I saw an article today about his new cookbook, Sugar Shack Au Pied de Cochon. He recently was the center of a controversy when he withdrew from a food festival in Ottawa rather than give in to activists who objected to the inclusion of foie gras on his menu. The new cookbook includes two recipes, "confederation beaver" and "squirrel sushi," that I and, I hope, almost any reasonable person will find disturbing.

What bothers me is not so much that these animals are used for food--after all, why should eating a beaver or a squirrel be any more upsetting than eating a cow or a pig?--but the mocking and gratuitously grizzly manner in which the animals are prepared and presented. The squirrel recipe, which is probably the most disturbing, is served accompanied by the tail, the paws, and the head, which are not to be eaten but are simply arranged on the plate to mimic the appearance of the living animal. The recipes are accompanied by graphic photographs.

The beaver recipe is presented in a similarly grotesque manner. I find it incomprehensible that any sane diner would react with anything but horror upon being presented with this pathetic dish. In fact, if I had seen this photograph outside of the context of the article, I would have assumed that it was a joke.

I can not help but think that these recipes are not to be taken seriously, but are in fact Martin Picard's revenge on the animal welfare advocates who brought about his withdrawal from the Ottawa Food Festival. Chef Picard makes two claims that are quoted in the article that I find laughable. The first is that he is "not political." And the second is that he is "very respectful of animals." Respectful? I can't comprehend how anybody could look at the photo above and think that chef Picard has one milligram of respect for the squirrel that he butchered to create that dish.