If you are motivated to celebrate the occasion in a manner other than scattering some peanuts in the shell, you might visit the website of Project Squirrel at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago. Become a citizen scientist and log your observations of your neighborhood squirrel species into their database and contribute to the body of knowledge about the Gray Squirrel, the Fox Squirrel, and urban ecology more generally.
If your feelings toward urban wildlife run to darker or more ambivalent emotions, I recommend visiting the website of visual artist Amy Stein. An exhibit of her photographs, Domesticated: Modern Dioramas of Our New Natural History, premieres at the Harvard Natural History Museum January 22 and will remain up until April 18, 2010. From the Museum website:
Stein opens the exhibit with a gallery talk January 22 at 4:00 pm. The museum is also hosting wildlife biologist Stephen DeStefano, reading from his book about urban wildlife, Coyote at the Kitchen Door, January 23 at 2:00 pm. You can bring peanuts for the squirrels on the museum's snow-covered lawn.
Informed by actual newspaper accounts and oral histories from residents of the small town of Matamoras in northeastern Pennsylvania, Stein’s photographs are staged scenes, often using taxidermied animals, illustrating real-life encounters between humans and animals. A girl and huge bear stare at each other from opposite sides of a fence surrounding the family pool. Coyotes howl at a street light. Stein’s images, at the same time both surreal and paradoxical, explore the increasingly permeable boundary between the human/built environment and the wild. Stein writes, “We at once seek connection with the mystery and freedom of the natural world, yet we continually strive to tame the wild around us and compulsively control the wild within our own nature."
Photo from Domesticated by Amy Stein.