Have Squirrels Always Been Welcome at the White House?

In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower "waged war" on the squirrels that were damaging his putting green on the White House's South Lawn.
In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower "waged war" on the squirrels that were damaging his putting green on the White House's South Lawn.

Some U.S. presidents are faced with a series of international crises during their time in office. Some, like President Dwight D. Eisenhower, have to deal with diabolical turmoil at home. For Ike, the enemy was the eastern gray squirrel (alias Sciurus carolinensis).

In the spring of 1955, some bushy-tailed combatants were relentlessly digging up portions of the White House putting green, and the retired army general (and avid golfer) declared war. Although White House officials toyed with the idea of scaring the rodents away by playing a recording of squirrel squeals, a University of Maryland biologist suggested simply capturing and relocating them. In March 1955, it was announced that three such POWs had been relocated, two to Rock Creek Park in Northwest D.C. and one to Virginia, and that the move had solved the nutty problem.

Eisenhower vs. the squirrels:

  • Years later, journalist Jack Anderson – known for exposing corruption and scandal – would claim that the three squirrels hadn’t been trapped and freed. They were poisoned, he claimed, citing unnamed JFK-era sources.

  • The U.S. Golf Association built the green on the South Lawn of the White House, just outside Ike’s office. The president could often be seen, with an 8-iron and wedge in hand, practicing his chipping.

  • Eisenhower took some ribbing for his obsessive Squirrel War, including a Washington Post headline that mockingly read: “White House Squirrels Being Deported for Taking Divots From Putting Green.”

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    • In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower "waged war" on the squirrels that were damaging his putting green on the White House's South Lawn.
      In 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower "waged war" on the squirrels that were damaging his putting green on the White House's South Lawn.