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Theodore Wirth had a soft spot for Minneapolis songbirds. The city’s orioles, larks and sparrows were under siege when Wirth took office as parks superintendent in 1906. Public enemy No. 1? “Boys who rob birds’ nests,” according to the Minneapolis Tribune.
In March 1909, Wirth ordered park police to enforce an ordinance that prohibited boys from bringing guns into city parks. The birds had a few four-legged enemies as well. About a dozen chattering red squirrels had the run of Loring Park, destroying eggs and young birds in the nest. Wirth instructed his officers to shoot the reds. To prevent neighboring reds from repopulating the park, he shipped in gray squirrels from Wichita, Kan. “Gray squirrels,” the Tribune explained, “are preferred in parks all over the country because they are easily tamed and do not interfere with birds at all.”
A month later, the newspaper reported, only one red squirrel remained in Loring Park:
|Theodore Wirth in about 1915. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)|
The Gardens, Loring Park, in about 1909. (Postcard image courtesy mnhs.org)