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Squirrels nabbed from Moscow's parks, sold as pets

  • Russia-Squirrel-Sensation

    A squirrel eats, in Moscow's "Neskuchny Sad" park in Moscow, Russia.

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Russia-Squirrel-Sensation-1

    A squirrel gets food form women in Moscow's "Neskuchny Sad" park in Moscow, Russia.

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Russia-Squirrel-Sensation-2

    In this photo taken on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, a squirrel takes a food from a man's hand in Moscow's "Neskuchny Sad" park in Moscow, Russia. One by one, the bushy-tailed residents of Moscow’s parks have been disappearing. The problem: Russians have gone nuts for squirrels. City official Alexei Gorelov told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he has received multiple reports of squirrel poaching in local parks. In response, municipal authorities on Jan. 31 ordered bolstered security for all of Moscow’s green areas. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Russia-Squirrel-Sensation-3

    In this photo taken on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, a squirrel eats while perched inside of a feeder, in Moscow's "Neskuchny Sad" park in Moscow, Russia. One by one, the bushy-tailed residents of Moscow’s parks have been disappearing. The problem: Russians have gone nuts for squirrels. City official Alexei Gorelov told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he has received multiple reports of squirrel poaching in local parks. In response, municipal authorities on Jan. 31 ordered bolstered security for all of Moscow’s green areas. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Russia-Squirrel-Sensation-4

    In this photo taken on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, a squirrel eats nuts in Moscow's "Neskuchny Sad" park in Moscow, Russia. One by one, the bushy-tailed residents of Moscow’s parks have been disappearing. The problem: Russians have gone nuts for squirrels. City official Alexei Gorelov told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he has received multiple reports of squirrel poaching in local parks. In response, municipal authorities on Jan. 31 ordered bolstered security for all of Moscow’s green areas. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Russia-Squirrel-Sensation-5

    In this photo taken on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, squirrels accept food from a woman in Moscow's "Neskuchny Sad" park in Moscow, Russia. One by one, the bushy-tailed residents of Moscow’s parks have been disappearing. The problem: Russians have gone nuts for squirrels. City official Alexei Gorelov told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he has received multiple reports of squirrel poaching in local parks. In response, municipal authorities on Jan. 31 ordered bolstered security for all of Moscow’s green areas. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

    <ASSOCIATED PRESS

Russia-Squirrel-Sensation-1

A squirrel gets food form women in Moscow's "Neskuchny Sad" park in Moscow, Russia.

ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

MOSCOW  — One by one, the bushy-tailed residents of Moscow’s parks have been disappearing. The problem: Russians have gone nuts for pet squirrels.

Moscow authorities bolstered security last week for all of the city’s green areas after city official Alexei Gorelov said he had received multiple reports of squirrel poaching.

Gorelov, who heads an Ecological Control unit, said more police patrols are being dispatched to fend off the poachers, who can be fined up to 20,000 rubles ($573).

Noting that squirrels were of little use for their meat or their fur, he said most were resold as pets for 5,000 rubles ($144) each.

“(Wild) animals have to be enjoyed from a distance,” said Gorelov as he scrolled through a Russian website selling squirrel pets.

Russia-Squirrel-Sensation

A squirrel eats, in Moscow's "Neskuchny Sad" park in Moscow, Russia.

ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

Despite the website’s claims that squirrels are a “friendly and gentle” animal to keep around the house, they can bite and are not domesticated.

Some animal lovers were outraged at the poaching.

“The fine should not be 5,000 rubles, it should be 500,000 rubles for this kind of poaching,” said Alexandra Mishenko, a retiree who feeds the squirrels in Moscow’s parks.

“We should gather people together and pelt the person who does that with snow,” she said, eyes welling with tears.

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