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Reasons we love squirrels

Troy Mathew | Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What chatters incessantly, gets in the way on your walk to class and is always begging for attention? No, it’s not the group of freshmen in your philosophy class. It’s the omnipresent squirrels on campus.

Sure, these critters are amusing. They even help to keep campus clean by scavenging for LaFun leftovers that don’t make it into the trashcans. The student body’s obsession with the squirrels, however, deserves further investigation. Just how do these squirrels endear themselves so fully to the Notre Dame community? Why are they fawned over, as if they were furry little angels? Here are some possible explanations:

They have no competition

The squirrels appear cute because all the other wildlife on campus is absolutely horrific. Considering the large number of skunks, possums and raccoons inhabiting the area, squirrels practically win the gold medal by default. The squirrels in the area also pose no risk of spreading rabies (the most valuable piece of information I got from my study abroad meeting), which makes them considerably safer than their raccoon brethren. The squirrels are also inoffensive when compared to the volatile geese, which can scare the pants off unsuspecting lakeside joggers. Basically, students focus on the squirrels because they’re the only non-hideous and benign animals that exist here.

They’re semi-domesticated

Students are separated from their family pets, and rectors were recently forbidden from keeping pets in their dorms. Put in this emotional state, students will naturally develop an attachment to any animal that will boldly approach humans. Many students feel the need to feed the squirrels a spare Cheeto or two, which only reinforces the squirrels’ decision to approach humans. It’s a vicious cycle, and it has led to squirrels functioning as surrogate pets.

They’re entertaining

On the walk to class, squirrels can always be seen scuttling around trees, running through the grass and, most importantly, fighting. Quite often squirrels will engage in combat, screeching and chasing after one another at high speeds. These events are a true spectacle, as anyone who has witnessed them can attest. Squirrel fights provide a completely free source of entertainment, along with a much-needed distraction. What better way to get a bad test or boring lecture out of your head then seeing two furry animals skirmish in a threateningly-adorable way? Okay, there’s a few better ways to get school out of your head, but squirrels are an endless source of spectacle nonetheless.

They’re massive

The squirrels are above average size, to say the least. Perhaps it’s due to their steady diet of PlayDoh-like pizza from Sbarro and quarter-dog remnants, or maybe it’s just their attempt to fatten up before the winter. Regardless of the cause, the pudgy squirrels attract more attention and affection. They’re like those oversized stuffed animals at a carnival — they have an inexplicable appeal simply because of their ridiculous size. Their tendency for eating leftovers also likens these creatures to our beloved household pets, although hopefully you don’t feed your dog soggy pizza.

Contact Troy Mathew at tmathew2@nd.edu