Bylaw drives joggers nuts
Police train radar on speedy runners
Crackdown to help mating squirrels
A new crackdown on speeders is being launched today with police concentrating their radar traps on parks all over the GTA.
Their targets will not be motorists but joggers.
In a rare example of environmental co-operation, mayors across the megacity have joined to rush through a temporary bylaw requiring joggers in parks to run no faster than 10 km/h. The region's distinctive black squirrels are entering their mating season and, with the squirrel population falling in recent years, ecologists urge that they be disturbed as little as possible.
For the six-week duration of the speed limit, unofficially dubbed "Operation Quickie," first offenders will be issued a warning. Repeat speeders will be fined as much as $500, depending on how fast they were running. They will be banned from parks for up to a year and required to attend animal-sensitivity classes.
"We're not saying black squirrels are on the verge of extinction," said zoologist Flora Lipo. "And, yes, some people regard them as pests. But they're quite a scarce variety of Sciurus carolinensis,the eastern gray squirrel, and it would be a shame if their numbers were thinned out to the point where they were forced to mate with their more common cousins and became mundane dark gray squirrels.
"Research indicates that one of the greatest inhibiting factors to amorous squirrels is joggers travelling at excessive speeds. It's not simply the wind of their passage but also the rhythmic thudding of their feet and their panting breath.
- `One of the greatest inhibiting factors to amorous squirrels is joggers travelling at excessive speeds'
Flora Lipo, zoologist
"The combination of these quite unfailingly puts the male squirrel off, so to speak, his own stride."
Lipo runs a private animal-behaviour clinic, financed by her grandfather who invented the liposuction technique of cosmetic fat removal. She said squirrel-testing had shown that the crucial speed was 10.4 km/h.
"It seemed reasonable to request a 10 km/h limit," she said. "The mating season is quite short and I don't think it's too much to ask that the squirrels be permitted to do what comes naturally ... naturally. I was delighted that the mayors all saw the need for quick action."
The police operation involves several forces, including the OPP. It will be led by an American, New Jersey state police Captain Al Polfoir, who has been hired for his expertise. Polfoir was involved some years ago in a similar effort to save the Jersey Devil, indigenous to his state's Pine Barrens natural park.
"Unfortunately, we were too late," he said. "The poor things were jogged pretty much out of existence. We think there may be a few devils left deep in the Barrens, but it's been a while since there was a sighting.
"What we learned, however, was how to adapt automotive radar to smaller targets — joggers — and lower speeds. We'll have an officer on a bicycle at each checkpoint to go after anyone running really fast. We think that after one warning most joggers will slow down or, better still, stick to city streets.
"My forebears are Canadian — Polfoir is an Acadian name — and I'm both honoured and humbled to help with Operation Quickie.
"When I think of all those little baby squirrels as yet unborn ... it goes to show that international co-operation can extend beyond the United Nations and NATO."