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.|
Last of the “Reds”
Haunts Loring Park
Wily Bird-eating Quadruped Successfully Dodges Coppers’ Bullets
“Cruncho the Red,” the last of the squirrel hordes in Loring park, a defiant rebel, who is apparently bullet-proof, or at least possessor of a charmed life, roams at will through the park and chatters out a saucy defiance at Theodore Wirth, whenever he happens along. However, Cruncho has but another month in which to give up the battle and die game, or put pride behind him and hike to Kenwood parkway, where many of his relatives have flown, as persecuted patriots fleeing to a land of freedom.
The Gardens, Loring Park, in about 1909. (Postcard image courtesy mnhs.org)