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    23 Nov 2016

    Squirrel hospitalizes Chicago politician who spoke out against squirrels

    Howard Brookins Jr., the alderman for Chicago's 21st ward, had publicly spoken out about a toothy menace plaguing the city's garbage carts: urban squirrels, which in Brookins's view were "aggressive," and aggressively damaging the trash cart lids.
    He now has another reason to dislike the rodents. One recently sent him to the hospital with a skull fracture in a "freak bicycle accident," as the alderman wrote on Facebook.
    Brookins was biking along Cal-Sag Trail on Nov. 13, when a squirrel darted into his path. The squirrel cut Brookins's bike trip short by wrapping itself in the spokes of the alderman's bicycle. The alderman flipped over the handlebars and landed with such a severe impact that he fractured his skull, broke his nose and knocked out a handful of teeth, the Chicago Tribune reported. A woman who passed by called 911. Brookins was only able to leave the hospital Thursday.
    "I can think of no other reason for this squirrel's actions than that it was like a suicide bomber, getting revenge," the alderman said to the Tribune on Monday. He told the newspaper a full recovery was expected to take months.
    Brookins had denounced the eastern gray squirrel just a few weeks before the accident. In mid-October, Brookins complained that "aggressive squirrels" were undermining the effort to overhaul the city's trash carts, reported the Chicago Sun Times. The squirrels were gnawing through the garbage cart lids at a cost of $300,000 to the city.
    "It's a pet peeve. It does invoke some giggles. But we are spending too much money on replacing garbage carts because the squirrels continue to eat through 'em," Brookins said at a city council meeting on Oct. 21, according to the Sun Times. The alderman said that residents were repeatedly asking for replacement garbage cans, as the squirrels could chew through the lid within as little as two days.
    After the accident, Brookins wrote on Facebook that he was okay, but he added he will undergo several surgeries "to recover from damage to my face and upper body." His chief of staff, James Ramos, told Chicagoist that Brookins was "in very good spirits" despite his "heavy damage."

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