Arts & Life
This is Kevin the squirrel, who climbs into strollers at the Discovery Park play area in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood.
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This is Kevin the squirrel, who climbs into strollers at the Discovery Park play area in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood.
Credit: Courtesy of Sara Pokas

Seattle’s cheese-cracker addicted squirrel is traumatizing kids

Earlier this week, Willow Naranjo, a Seattle mom, posted a warning to a neighborhood parent group about an aggressive local squirrel.

“Beware this squirrel with the notched ear,” Naranjo wrote on Facebook. “It rules over the playground at Discovery Park.”

Parents knew exactly who she meant: Kevin, the girl squirrel.

“I talk about this squirrel even though I’ve moved!” said Ev Hay, a member of the Facebook group who now lives in California. “I go, ‘Back home there’s this squirrel…’”

Tina Maistros McArthur, another member of the group, wrote that she and her son left the playground for good because of Kevin. “He chased me and my son," she wrote. "It was scary!"

Harper was 3 when she picked up Kevin the squirrel at the Discovery Park play area in Seattle. Her mom Lauren Simpson said that Kevin appeared to be a nursing mom ... and was totally unfazed.
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Harper was 3 when she picked up Kevin the squirrel at the Discovery Park play area in Seattle. Her mom Lauren Simpson said that Kevin appeared to be a nursing mom ... and was totally unfazed.
Credit: Courtesy of Lauren Simpson

“That’s Kevin," Sara Pokas, a nanny in Magnolia, wrote with a laugh-cry emoji. "He is a pain in the ass.”

Kevin (aka Geoffrey or Sammy or Skittles, depending on the kid doing the naming) is a shameless female squirrel with an affinity for goldfish crackers and Cheez-Its.

Kevin doesn't mind when kids hold her, according to local parents, and has reportedly climbed up a woman’s leg for popcorn. She has been described as a bold, fearless stroller-hopper who unseals plastic baggies and pops off Tupperware lids. She pokes tiny holes for her tiny paws in nice new backpacks.

“[She] does eat right out of our hands,” Pokas said. “Maybe we shouldn’t do that, but look at Kevin. How can we resist?”

Pokas spends a lot of time at this wooded park and has tried offering fruit and vegetables, but Kevin isn’t buying.

“Kevin threw an apple slice once and waited for goldfish,” Pokas said.

(Now might be a good time to say that the city does not want you to feed the squirrels, but that warning may be too late for Kevin.)

We wanted to see Kevin for ourselves, so we drove to Discovery Park with an offering of BBQ Lays potato chips found in the newsroom kitchen.

Julie Wright and her daughter Stella, age 2, eat lunch at the Discovery Park play area on Wednesday.
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Julie Wright and her daughter Stella, age 2, eat lunch at the Discovery Park play area on Wednesday.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

At the play area, Julie Wright, a Magnolia mom of four, smiled knowingly.

“He was just here,” she said. “A dad chased him away 20 minutes ago.”

Wright’s son, Steel, age 4, walked up to his mom. She crouched down. “Steel had a bad dream in his bed because of this very squirrel,” she said.

Steel looked solemn. “I don’t like squirrels,” he said.

“It’s a little annoying for parents,” Wright said. “My son is apprehensive about coming to the park – ‘Mom, I don’t want to see the squirrel. We shouldn’t bring snacks to the park.’”

After we parted, Wright texted her husband.

“NPR is here doing a story about the squirrel,” she wrote. “The squirrel that gave Steel nightmares?” he texted back.

Back on the neighborhood Facebook group, Lauren Simpson said she and her family encountered Kevin last spring. That's when her 3-year-old daughter Harper chased Kevin … then picked her up with both hands.

“As soon as Kevin was back on the ground," Simpson said, "it was like nothing had happened. Kevin just stood there unfazed.”

Simpson said she has since brought peanuts for Kevin to snack on. “We probably shouldn’t have," she said, "but we noticed she looked like a nursing mama and had a soft spot for her in our hearts.”

Kevin the squirrel at the Discovery Park play area in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood.
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Kevin the squirrel at the Discovery Park play area in Seattle's Magnolia neighborhood.
Credit: Courtesy of Amanda Vassallo

A few moms were not on Team Kevin. One said she had called Animal Control, but got nowhere.

JiaYing Grygiel, who lives near Discovery Park, said she made the mistake of bringing a stroller with snacks.

“That squirrel climbed into the stroller I WAS PUSHING and rummaged through everything,” Grygiel wrote on the Facebook thread. “It wouldn’t leave even with me freaking out and shaking the stroller. Luckily there was no baby in the stroller. Shudder.”

At the park, Kjersti Gromseth, who was visiting Seattle from Norway, said she thought Kevin was cute at first.

“Then I tried to scare it away,” Gromseth said. But Kevin didn’t budge. Kevin looked angry.

When Gromseth told her 5-year-old son on Wednesday that they would return to the Discovery Park play area, he said, "Oh, that’s the playground with the squirrel.”

We didn't get to meet Kevin on this reporting trip to the playground.

A crow nicknamed Leonard ate the BBQ chips.