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Squirrel deaths haunt town

Seven dead squirrels in four days have alarmed residents of Okni mohalla in Hazaribagh town.

While it is too early to call the deaths epidemic, the sight of squirrel carrion in different pockets of the town is bringing back grim memories of the mysterious crow deaths that had plagued Hazaribagh in the winter of 2011.

Areas in and around the town are rich in fauna and the Indian palm squirrel, identifiable by three black stripes on its back, is one of the species that is found in large numbers. Naturally, local residents are familiar with the sight of these scampering rodents. Some elderly residents even claim that the squirrel population had increased by leaps and bounds this year.

“It was nice to watch them scurry around my lawn. But, about four days ago, I found one dead. Since then, I have been finding squirrels dead every morning,” said Uday Shankar Prasad, a retired government employee.

The other three rodents were found dead in different parts of the locality.

Prasad attributed the deaths to food poisoning. “They may have eaten contaminated food. People should be careful about throwing stale leftovers in open places where rodents have access,” he complained.

Wildlife expert Satya Prakash echoed Prasad, but said it was too early to nail the cause of deaths. “Food contamination is possible, but we lack the apparatus to conduct tests and ascertain the reason. Besides, it is too early to panic. However, if the deaths continue, we must raise an alarm,” he said.