David Baram is on a mission: He's walking through Central Park, to count squirrels.
Baram is among 300 volunteers taking part in what is said to be the first-ever squirrel census of the 840-acre greenspace.
It's the perfect fit for the retired doctor, who says his allergy to cats and dogs made him a big squirrel fan.
"They sort of became our pets, in a way, because they're friendly," Baram said. "They're cute."
The count began Saturday and will end Oct. 20. Volunteers get a quick briefing and then fan out, recording the color, approximate age, and behavior of the squirrels they see.
What is the point of tallying squirrels? Researchers say they're hoping to collect enough data so they'll be able to paint a picture of life in Central Park.
Jamie Allen is behind the census. Prior to coming to New York, he conducted two similar counts in Atlanta. The results, he says, will tell a story about the squirrels and the health of the world famous park.
"In order to have squirrels in a park doing well, you have to have nut-producing trees that are healthy," Allen said. "You have to have areas where they can feel comfortable roaming around and gathering nuts and foraging, that kind of thing."
With the census lasting two weeks and the volunteers going out twice a day, some squirrels likely will be counted several times, while some might not be counted at all. Allen says a formula will take all that into account in producing a final tally.
On the morning we went out, the squirrels were shy at first. Baram counted just six in one hour.
"I thought I might see some more, because the other day I was over by the Tavern on the Green and I counted 19," Baram said.
This was his second time in the park this week. He says, even at home, he thinks about squirrels.
"We have about 150 squirrel salt-and-pepper shakers," Baram told us. "We have cookie jars, we have clocks, we have nutcrackers. You name it, we have it."