The 2018 Central Park Squirrel Census

Hey, it’s Rose! I write for Datawrapper’s blog, and today I’m reporting on some of New York’s more beloved rodents.

Pigeons make a mess. Raccoons spread trash. And rats are so hated that New York now has a dedicated “rat czar,” hired after a search for “bloodthirsty” candidates with a “killer instinct.”

But at least one animal manages to live in the city as neither a pet nor a pest, widespread but also widely regarded as harmless or even cute. Instead of traps and poisons, the squirrels of New York get an adorable citizen-science project: the Squirrel Census.

The project, which has since expanded to other city parks, is a mix of art and science that records not only squirrel sightings and weather, but also stories, sketches, sounds, songs, and video. For ongoing participation, there’s even a Squirrel Census app and hotline (1-833-NYC-SQRL, obviously).

Creating a custom choropleth

Datawrapper offers over 3000 basemaps, including 14 of New York City alone — but we don’t have the official Squirrel Census tracts of Central Park. Luckily, it’s possible to upload a custom map as well. I grabbed the park grid, as well as a basic outline of the islands, from the city’s open data portal and combined them in Mapshaper. If you’ve got unusual basemap needs, you can follow the guide in Datawrapper’s Academy to do the same.

That's all from me for today! Tune in next Thursday for another Weekly Chart.