Forget Sochi, where are all Moscow's squirrels?

Officials are confident that the squirrels were of little use for their meat or their fur

Lurking behind trees furtively nibbling their nuts in a Moscow park, Russian squirrels could be forgiven they were thinking they were relatively safe.

Not so it has emerged after Moscovians have gone nuts for pet squirrels. Authorities in the Russian capital have been forced to increase security last week for all of the city's green areas after public official Alexei Gorelov said he had received multiple reports of 'squirrel poaching.'

Fortunately officials are confident that the squirrels were of little use for their meat or their fur and are actually being resold as pets for 5,000 rubles ($144) each.

Mr Gorelov, who heads an Ecological Control unit, said more police patrols are being dispatched to fend off the poachers, who can be fined up to 20,000 rubles ($573).

According to Associated Press the furry friends are being sold on a Russian website which advertises them as a "friendly and gentle" animal to keep around the house. However they can bite and are not domesticated.

Some animal lovers were outraged at the poaching.

"The fine should not be 5,000 rubles, it should be 500,000 rubles for this kind of poaching," said Alexandra Mishenko, a retiree who feeds the squirrels in Moscow's parks.

"We should gather people together and pelt the person who does that with snow," she said, eyes welling with tears.

Additional reporting by Associated Press.

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