Why Dwight Eisenhower Had A Feud With Squirrels

American presidents have had many high-profile feuds throughout history. Thomas Jefferson versus John Adams. John F. Kennedy versus Fidel Castro. Donald Trump versus the losers and haters. Dwight D. Eisenhower versus ... squirrels? Yes, as it turns out, the mid-1950s saw an unlikely war between the 34th president and the bushy-tailed rodents that roamed the White House grounds. What caused this dramatic showdown?

As a young man, Eisenhower had no particularly strong feelings towards squirrels; like most people, he neither loved nor loathed them. The same could not be said of his predecessor in the White House, Harry S. Truman. Truman was a squirrel fanatic; according to the White House Museum, Truman hand-fed the squirrels that he could find near the White House, to the point that he "nearly tamed" them. Sooner or later, the squirrels started viewing the White House lawn as their home.

President Eisenhower may not have loved squirrels, but he did love golf. In 1954, per the White House Museum, Eisenhower commissioned the creation of a putting green outside the Oval Office. The president hoped that the green would be the perfect place to unwind after a long day of running the country. But to his dismay, his miniature golf getaway was quickly infested by Truman's old friends, the eastern gray squirrels. The squirrels, per History, had the nasty habit of burying their acorns and walnuts throughout Eisenhower's beloved putting green.

Eisenhower's removal of White House squirrels stirred up controversy

Naturally, President Eisenhower was outraged. According to History, Eisenhower once told his valet, "The next time you see one of those squirrels go near my putting green, take a gun and shoot it!" But, while the World War II general was willing to attack Nazi Germany by force, the White House groundskeepers took a different approach. Instead of blasting away, they live-trapped the squirrels, releasing them in nearby Rock Creek Park.

The story could've ended there, but it didn't. Jumping at the opportunity to portray the Republican president in a negative light, Richard Neuberger, a Democratic senator from Oregon, called out Eisenhower for his harsh treatment of the White House squirrels. Per Oregon Live, Senator Neuberger demanded to know if Eisenhower approved of the "deportation" of these rodents; "Does he intend to stop it? Is it continuing?" he asked.

To respond to this apparent crisis, the senator launched a campaign centered around bringing back the White House squirrels. Neuberger was an effective speaker, and many members of the public hopped on board the pro-squirrel lobby. Not much later, a number of Oregonians started their own campaign, "Nuts to Neuberger," sending the senator boxes full of nuts to feed to the squirrels of Washington. (Neuberger forwarded the nuts to the Boy Scouts.) Soon enough, for the sake of optics, Eisenhower decided to stop deporting the local squirrels. No attempt was made to repatriate those that had already been displaced.