UC Berkeley is home to a large population of friendly, chubby squirrels.
Environmental Impact and Response
While the campus squirrels are largely known for their obesity and friendliness, Berkeley squirrels have been consistently caught in the crossfire between wildlife lovers and the the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control District, which ordered the city of Berkeley to reduce the squirrel population in 2009. The environmental impact of the abundant population of squirrels within the entire city led to the formation of a special squirrel subcommittee on the Berkeley City Council. The burrowing of squirrels and gophers is threatening the clay cap that encases harmful chemicals inside a former hazardous waste site in Cesar Chavez Park. There are concerns that the toxins could leak from the site and spill into the San Francisco Bay.
In July 2014, the squirrel subcommittee decided to outlaw feeding wildlife in Berkeley public parks. Those caught feeding squirrels or other wildlife in Berkeley public parks could face a $1000 fine, up to 6 months in jail, or both. This decision was reached as an alternative to the initially proposed pilot program in which a pest control company would have exterminated squirrels in a section of Cesar Chavez Park. The initial proposal to exterminate the squirrels prompted an outcry from the Berkeley community in which over 81,000 emails were sent to city staff in protest. In the summer of 2014, the city spend $8000 to put signs and brochures in Cesar Chavez Park informing the public that feeding squirrels and other wildlife was a crime.