BY DANNY TULL
As students on a college campus with trees in a good majority of our common outdoor spaces, we are often exposed to squirrels. I can’t think of one day in my last three years on campus when I haven’t seen a squirrel scurrying up a tree or infiltrating the nearby trash receptacle.
Because our bushy-tailed little friends are so much smaller than us, they have the opportunity to experience the world in a vastly different way than we humans do. Squirrels live in an entire world of their own, and I have made it my task to investigate their world.
Here at the university, we have a high population of squirrels that have sort of taken over campus. The squirrels are most commonly seen between the South and North Green. From digging in the trash cans to leaping gracefully throughout the campus, these agile rodents have become the official unofficial mascots of college campuses throughout the nation.
It is safe to say that in most places you go on campus, you’re likely to witness squirrels going about their business. And it’s probably best if you mind yours if you want to avoid being scarred for your life like I once was.
One day, while looking around for the squirrels, just to see what the little homies were up to, I went on a casual walk throughout campus. As I circled around the Mentor’s Circle book, I heard this horrific screech (which might I add, became the recurring soundtrack for my dreams for basically a week. So, that was fun.).
Did you know that a squirrel yell sounds reminiscent of a cat being strangled? Well I sure didn’t, but you bet I do now. I’d have to say it tops the list of truly revolting noises, up there with nails on a chalkboard, [blank] and loud chewing (feel free to insert your least favorite sound in the blank spot).
I reached out to some students to see if they had any similar encounters with the university’s squirrels.
I first talked to junior astronomy major Bridgette Fowler who is a self-proclaimed squirrel fan. This is Fowler’s first semester on campus since she transferred from the Associate in Arts Program after two years.
“Where I come from, there are a standard amount of squirrels but never came up close and personal like the ones here. They were pretty flighty. Dover campus was mostly big buildings and parking lots,” Fowler says.
Fowler’s initial experience with squirrels on campus was different from that of students on a campus where squirrels are familiar with humans. Squirrels outside of college campuses are very jumpy and tend to avoid humans at all costs.
“I think it’s interesting how they aren’t very flighty like normal,” Fowler says. “And, you know, they still tend to run away a little. But, you can definitely approach them more than others and I think that the reason for this is because chances are there have been multiple squirrel generations living on the Green.”
Next, I talked with junior Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and Agriculture and Natural Resources double major, Amber Barlow. They have been on campus since spring 2021, which was also their freshman year. Barlow shared with me that their primary access to the squirrels would be the South Green because they do not travel through the North Green unless for class.
“One day I was coming out of the Harrington P.O.D. and I went to put my gum in the trash bin,” Fowler said. “Next to the trash bin, there was a squirrel just chilling, eating something. I approached the trash bin to put my gum away. The squirrel did not flinch and it made eye contact with me. I believe we bonded that day. I’ll never forget that squirrel.”
Barlow also shared their own squirrel encounter.
“Last year, I don’t remember if it was in the fall or spring semester,” Barlow said. “There was a dead squirrel frozen on a bench.”
According to Barlow, this occurred right outside of Alison Hall.
Now even though the general feeling on campus about squirrels ranges from thoughtful respect to barely noticing them, it is safe to say having them follow you around might not be everyone’s thing.
When asked how they felt about squirrels, Barlow replied, “I like them, but to an extent.”
The squirrels have been on campus for decades and possibly will be here for years to come. What will the next generation have to say about the squirrels’ lively activity? Many current students may not get the chance to find out after graduation. But, possibly down the road, they’ll have children of their own to experience this up close and personal relationship with the campus squirrels. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.