Montreal squirrels are fattening up for the winter by eating food brought into Lafontaine Park by park visitors. ((Pierre Faubert))

Families who visit Montreal's popular Lafontaine Park are fed up with the park's brazen squirrels who have been stalking people and leaping into strollers in search of food.

As winter approaches, the Plateau-Mont-Royal park's large population of squirrels has been fattening up, and doing so by raiding garbage bins, shopping bags and belongings of many of the park visitors.

Some parents say the squirrels' behaviour is getting worse, and they are calling on park visitors to stop giving them snacks.

"The squirrels get into the strollers. They eat the snacks from the children's hands. They get into our bags, and they open them up," said Isabel Molliet, whose son visits the park often with his daycare.

Brigitte Roy, who works with children's groups visiting the park, said she often has to shoo the squirrels away when they get too close.

She blames people who feed the squirrels for creating a population of fearless critters.

"I don't like the squirrels in Lafontaine Park. I find [the park] is full of people who feed them," said Roy.


CBC Montreal listeners submitted their favourite squirrel photos, including this shot of a squirrel at the back door of Didier Combatalade's house. ((Didier Combatalade))

"There is a sign that says don't feed them because they carry rabies. They can bite. Even having them attack me is my fear."

Certified wildlife tracker Rob Baker said the squirrels are especially ravenous these days because they can sense winter is approaching, and it's expected to be a cold one.

He said squirrels do not hibernate, so need to build up a thick layer of fat to keep them warm — and nourished — as the temperature drops and their traditional food sources become scarce.

The only way to change the behaviour of the animals is to stop feeding them, said Baker.

"The association of food with these animals is directly tied to human beings, especially when you have people arriving at the park with ten pound bags of peanuts," said Baker.