It all started for me last summer, with some VERY disturbing news coming out of California. No, not the devastating droughts and unprecedented wildfires, or the L.A.P.D. getting cartoonist Ted Rall fired from the Los Angeles Times by dropping an audio tape that of course turned out to be doctored bullshit. I refer, of course, to the squirrels.
You see, part of Yosemite National Park had been closed by health officials because, it seems, a second tourist there contracted the plague. The plague! As in, you know, the Black Death? That little pandemic that killed an estimated 30–60% of Europe’s total population in the fourteenth century? YES THAT PLAGUE.
And guess how it’s being spread. Go ahead, guess.
By fucking squirrels.
Squirrels are a fucking menace.
You might expect that since I live in downtown Manhattan, if I were to seriously hate on a fellow species–and let’s face it, all species are fellow species—it would probably be pigeons or something. Rats. Maybe cockroaches, which, as far as I’m concerned, ought to be the official symbol of New York City based on their sheer impudence and tenacity alone. Or perhaps those giant waterbugs everyone thinks New Yorkers are totally exaggerating about until they actually see one, and realize that some insects never got the memo that the Permian era ended hundreds of millions of years ago.
NOPE. I have come to loathe and detest no species on Earth so much as those members of the Order Rodentia, Suborder Sciuromorpha, Family Sciuridae. Well, besides H. sapiens, but that should go without saying. (See: virtually every post on my blog.)
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. But Iris! Squirrels are soooo cyoooot! How could you harbor such ill will towards our adorable little bushy-tailed cousins?
Okay first of all, you are woefully uninformed about the true nature and utter depravity of these beasts, an unfortunate and increasingly urgent state of affairs I intend to remedy shortly, and at length. (Wait, what?) Second, “ill will” does not even begin to cover it.
The squirrel-plague nexus.
In the wild, the plague bacteria Yersinia pestis circulates via flea bites among animal populations, particularly rodents—and squirrels are fucking rodents. Humans, such as our Yosemite tourists, become infected when bitten by a flea that has bitten a plague-ridden rodent. (Like, oh, say…a squirrel.) But that’s not the only disease vector. Once infected, humans can spread the plague among themselves by coughing or sneezing, contact (including sexual contact) with an infected person, indirect contact like touching a contaminated surface, breathing air under certain conditions where the plague bacteria can remain airborne, and the most disgusting transmission route of all, “fecal-oral,” from ingesting food or water contaminated with the diseased shit—literally, the actual shit—of the plague-infected. Think: Ebola. But with squirrels.
Take a look at how fast the plague spread in the fourteenth century—and consider that back then, exposure to infected populations would have happened much more slowly than in the age of widespread air travel and crowded trains.
Black Death strikes Europe: 1347-1353
(image: public domain)
Now it is true that these days the plague is generally treatable with antibiotics, which did not exist during the Black Death pandemic because Jeezus “forgot” to tell us about them. However, the plague can still be fatal if left untreated for whatever reason, including misdiagnosis, or lack of access to quality health care in this truly exceptional country. Just think about that the next time you have “fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes,” and your doctor tells you to just go home, get some rest and drink lots of fluids. By the way, do you think the United States has a stash of antibiotics for 323,000,000+ people? And what happens if (when?) an adaptive mutation leaves Yersinia pestis impervious to antibiotics?
Anyway. It turns out the two recent cases of squirrel-plague in Yosemite tourists are by no means isolated incidents, either. In fact:
Since 1970, 40 cases of plague have been reported in California, and nine people have died from the disease.
OMFG. I had no idea.
In Part 2, we will see that squirrels have been organizing and escalating their attacks, performing wanton acts of lawless depravity, engaging in what can only be described as terrorism, and otherwise being real fucking douches.
[a version of this post first appeared at perry street palace; it has been lightly edited and updated for FtB]