Picture this: it’s a beautiful spring day on campus. The sky is blue, the birds are chirping and you have a wonderful Einstein’s bagel in your hand. You go to sit down on a chair on the residential quad when, out of nowhere, a tiny furry creature springs out from the nearby trashcan — a wild campus squirrel! It approaches you quickly before turning and prancing away into the grass. Bewildered, you eat your bagel and wonder why the heck a squirrel just came at you like that.
If that sounds like anything that has happened to you, you aren’t alone! West Chester University (WCU)’s campus squirrels are certainly delightfully chaotic little lads and lasses. When asked if they had had any odd squirrel interactions, WCU students had these responses:
-“Once I was studying on the quad and a squirrel was straight-up gnawing on an Adirondack chair.”
-“[A squirrel] was just chilling next to me eating a Cheeto.”
-“My freshman year, I saw a squirrel jump out of a trash can with a full bagel in its mouth.”
-“One time, one was on the bike rack outside of Allegheny. It let me pet it and I was the only one it let do that.”
Many other responses were given, but the ones above really capture the essence of our campus squirrels. But, clearly, the squirrels of WCU are different than the ones that hang out in the forests or grasslands of Pennsylvania. But what exactly has made the squirrels the way that they are? Various surveys have suggested that such close contact to humans makes the squirrels more comfortable approaching them. When you add in the fact that our campus is full of food sources and students willing to interact with them, it’s understandable that the little guys are a little kookier than average.
This phenomenon is not exclusive to WCU, though — many college and university campuses have their own bunch of silly squirrels. One student who attends Loyola Marymount University in California responded to my poll saying, “There’s a really fat one that jumps up next to me and stares until I give him food.” Another student at Elizabethtown responded saying that a squirrel “screamed, literally yelled” at her because she got too close while it was eating. Sounds very familiar to our campus darlings!
While it may be fun to toss the furry friends a treat every once in a while, it is advised to not get too friendly with them. Even though they may seem straight out of a cartoon, squirrels can still become very food aggressive, especially when in large groups competing for a single French fry. Also, they are still wild animals, and may carry diseases like ringworm, tularemia or ticks. Considering that they also frequently dive in and out of trash cans, they definitely have lots of germs on their hands. It’s probably best to watch them from a distance and enjoy their antics from there.
Thank you to Abby Boquist, Tyler Czeiner, Sarah Ford and Sarah Richie for their squirrel stories!
Sarah Leinhauser is a second-year criminal justice major with a minor in Women’s & Gender Studies and Civic and Professional Leadership. Sl947401@wcupa.edu