On the ground in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Who's really responsible for chicken bones on the ground?

September 20, 2010 - 02:48 PM
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chicken bone on the sidewalk
Did a person leave this chicken bone on the sidewalk? Or something else? (Photo: TBD Staff)

It's not particularly unusual to stumble upon chicken bones on the ground in many D.C. neighborhoods. I only had to walk about two blocks from my house in Shaw before I found the one in the photo to the left, just for example. But one former Capitol Hill resident wishes her neighbors would think before assigning blame for how they got there.

It might sound trivial, but it's an issue that's come up at the ground level of local governance of late. Last week, we told you about Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A's attempts to get a new 7-Eleven on H Street NE reclassified as a fast-food establishment. The ANC's issue with the national convenience store chain stems from, among other things, concerns over their insistence on selling prepared chicken wings. Chicken wings lead to chicken bones being tossed carelessly on the ground, the commissioners have reasoned, which can be dangerous for dogs and attract vermin.

But in a message sent back in May to one Capitol Hill neighborhood email list, Carrie Nelson offered an intriguing counter-argument: It may often be squirrels, not people, that are responsible for leaving bones behind in odd places.

Nelson, who owns a yellow Labrador, admits that she had for some time also pointed fingers at her neighbors for this serious threat to her pooch. "It was like, oh my God, who's throwing their chicken bones on the ground?" she says. Not until just such a bone literally fell out of a tree right in front of her did it occur to her that squirrels might often be to blame.

"I looked up and I saw a squirrel up there," Nelson says. "Here I am blaming all my neighbors for being complete jerks."

Nelson guesses that residents are responsible for this bone situation in at least one way, though. The squirrels can only nab those bones out of garbage cans if people don't do a good job of securing their trash lids, she reasons.

Neighborhood debates over chicken bones often carry some uncomfortable subtext, Nelson admits, so she hopes her former neighbors on Capitol Hill (she recently moved to D.C.'s Hillcrest neighborhood) will exercise a bit more understanding.

"There is something sort of underlying it ... I don't know if I'd say it's racial, but more like, people assuming the worst," she says.

For his part, ANC 6A commissioner Drew Ronneberg, who's been leading the negotiations between the commission and the 7-Eleven, says he hopes residents understand that concerns about the new convenience store are about much more than chicken wings.

"Our history of fast-food establishments is no one wants to say they're a fast-food establishment," Ronneberg says. "You see a lot of trash from 7-Eleven," he notes, including pizza boxes, hot dog wrappers, and the like. "It's really about pizza and burritos ... all of the hotdogs and all of the fast-food."

Ronneberg says ANC 6A plans to file its appeal of 7-Eleven's certificate of occupancy on Friday.



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  1. Tiffany Bridge Tiffany Bridge

    Tiffany Bridge

    Sep 20, 2010 - 03:37:16 PM

    As someone who has called DPW no less than three times to get them to come out and attach a lid to our city-provided trash can that doesn't have one, and is STILL waiting for it to happen while we and our neighbors chase raccoons away multiple times a week, I'll just put it out there that improperly-secured trash can lids aren't necessarily the neighbors' fault, either.

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  2. henry888 henry888

    Alan Fairchild

    Sep 21, 2010 - 12:47:09 AM

    hello all as a building engeneer in the Tyson Corner area I had to walk my roof tops every morning and found many chicken bones.No fast food places for a mile or more,Squirles? not 7 stories up!! BIRDS yup! crows oh-yea, they will drag trash anywhere to sit down and have a meal so you can't put the blame on anything or anyone

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  3. woodChop woodChop

    Chris B.

    Sep 20, 2010 - 05:21:15 PM

    Squirrels raiding trash cans in order to eat chicken? What? Rats, stray cats, raccoons, crows, MAYBE but probably not squirrels raiding trash cans. They may consume the discarded bones for calcium, but they are predominantly herbivores. I'm not sure 7-11 is to blame on this one. Maybe some public education regarding vermin and proper trash handling would help.

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