We are living in a polarized nation. And it’s not just our politics. The strife and division extend to our squirrels: Are squirrels our friends – or our foes?

Should backyard squirrels be coddled and appeased? Or, is it high time to play hardball with these lowly ingrates?

National Squirrel Month is coming up in October. It’s time to get these questions resolved in the days and weeks ahead, before we get to a month when it will be impossible to converse rationally about squirrels. Are they our friends?

Some years back, David Oswald of Webster Groves wrote a scathing Mailbag letter excoriating squirrels for chewing through soffits, running across the roof, and tearing up his lawn. Oswald, a hawkish John Bolton-type when it comes to squirrels, advocated poison peanuts, cages and drowning the critters that were destroying his peace of mind.

Oswald was soon excoriated in the Mailbag section for his insensitivity toward squirrels. He was advised to move to the desert, to check himself in to a facility for the disturbed, to turn himself in to local law enforcement for violating animal cruelty laws.

This bitter controversy made me aware that people can be a little nuts about squirrels. With squirrel month on the way, I put together a scientific squirrel survey for humans to try to get a handle on the situation. Admittedly, it’s also a shameless ploy to garner sales for the book entitled, “Nuts About Squirrels.”

Here are the findings thus far from my polling: Almost 70% of survey respondents think squirrels are our friends. Of note, all these people relate to mass-mediated squirrels. They are infatuated with Rocket J. Squirrel, Rally Squirrel, Nutkin and Surly the Squirrel from the movie, “The Nut Job.”

Rocky is the most popular squirrel, followed by Rally, who helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the 2011 World Series. About half of local squirrel lovers want a Rally statue in front of Busch Stadium. Artistic types want a squirrel sculpture in Forest Park, also a Squirrel Museum on the St. Louis riverfront.

Squirrels were once an important part of the American diet. A majority of men would like to see squirrels return to the dinner table. Perhaps they have been influenced by Ted Nugent’s book, “Kill It & Grill It.” Three women named Kristin, Judy and Debbie turned their noses up at the idea. Judy argued that if we are looking for sustainable food sources, we should forget squirrels and consider algae smoothies and algae protein bars.

My very scientific squirrel survey is coming to Shepherd’s Center in Glendale at 11:30 a.m., July 19. I also will be conducting the squirrel survey at the Echo Student Journalism Camp on July 25 in Webster Groves. To review more squirrel research data, check out the Squirrel Survey at www.environmentalecho.com.

If you wish to have some input on the squirrel survey, leave a comment and request on www.environmentalecho.com.