In many of my previous posts on Commute By Bike, I have focused on feel-good stories, such as the tale of a man who found both renewed health and a missing dog while on his bicycle, as well as made entertaining (I hope) references to pop icons such as Kermit the Frog to explain painted bike lanes and complete streets initiatives. Today, however, I must report on a serious issue that I first learned about through NPR: squirrels vandalizing bicycles.
Vandalism is no laughing matter, and for dedicated bicycle commuters, there is nothing more frustrating than securing your bike in a designated rack and returning to find that someone or something has damaged your property. Unfortunately, an associate math professor at Iowa Lakes Community College had to deal with such frustrations last week when he found his bicycle with damage to both tires, the seat, headlight and taillight. The vandalism occurred over a two-day period, and it wasn’t until a fellow professor captured the crime in progress did the victim, Matt Strom, learn the true identity of this furry little vandal.
“[He was] the meanest squirrel you have ever seen,” Strom said in an email to his colleagues, according to the Sioux City Journal. Strom and a biology professor contemplated how they could bring the squirrel to justice, and Sioux City Animal Control owner Cindy Rarrat suggested attempting to trap the squirrel. This idea only led to more questions, such as how to identify the guilty squirrel and what to use as bait (“the rest of the bicycle seat,” offered Strom).
While Strom did report the incidents to Estherville police, it seems that efforts to capture the squirrel have failed, and NPR reported that Strom now parks his bicycle indoors. As someone who has experienced bicycle theft on a university campus (my bike was stolen either by a human or a raccoon, as I assume that opposable thumbs were necessary to operate the cable cutters), I understand Strom’s irritation and desire for justice. But, if we work together as bicycle enthusiasts to guard against these ferocious rubber-eating beasts, we can continue to ride our bikes and park outdoors with confidence.