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Squirrels have month in spotlight

Published: Monday, October 3, 2011

Updated: Monday, October 3, 2011 18:10

Squirrel

Abdullah Raslan

A squirrel perches on a tree, frozen out of fear.


In the first few weeks of school at ASU, there are a few things students will notice. Whether it's the long lines to the caf everyday at noon or the seemingly endless construction, ASU has its quirks. One of which is the overwhelming

 population of squirrels.

As squirrels start their yearly harvest in the fall, they are often seen as goofy, playful and sometimes unnoticed little critters of the forest.

Squirrel Awareness Month is observed in October every year. But some students on campus are well aware of the squirrel community.

"It seems like they're always watching, which is pretty nerve-racking," said Michale Riggs, a junior graphic design major of Cash. "I definitely make sure not to cross them if I can help it."

Riggs, who is now scared to death of squirrels, said one ran across the top of her foot last year, making her paranoid ever since.

"They should never get that close," Riggs said. "They throw their food down on people passing by. They're just nasty, creepy little animals."

Though it seems to some students on campus the squirrels have a vendetta against everyone on campus, others say the squirrels are just misunderstood.

Tracy Klotz, a graduate student in biology of Jonesboro, said squirrels are nothing to be afraid of or concerned about. If anything, they should be welcomed as campus is a safe haven for them.

"Students really shouldn't be too worried about the squirrels on campus," Klotz said. "They're here because of the pecan trees and because they aren't harassed. We don't bother them so they don't bother us."

As for the fear of disease, Klotz said if you encounter a squirrel you will not come in contact with any health risks.

"Our squirrels don't carry rabies, I'll say that right now," Klotz said. "If they feel threatened, they may bite and yes it will hurt, but that's about all that will happen."

Klotz said squirrels have played a significant role in our lives.

"Historically, squirrels have been a source of food," Klotz said. "But for the ones on campus, they serve more as amusement. They're playful and people like that."

The squirrels on campus are quite peculiar to those on campus because, they have learned to coexist as a part of the ASU community. Being around people doesn't bother them anymore.

"Once while standing near the arch in the middle of campus, I had a squirrel jump on my leg and stay there for a good few minutes," Klotz said. "It then ran away, but for a good while he just sat and stared at me like it was no big deal." The squirrels on campus are actually a lot friendlier than people may realize.

"Freshman year, my sister and I got really attached to a squirrel on campus," said Zach Elledge, a senior history major of Pocahontas. "We would feed it peanut butter and it got to where the squirrel would eat right out of our hands."

Elledge, an advocate for squirrels' rights, said he loves squirrels and doesn't understand why people would be afraid of them.

"They truly are more scared of us than we are of them," Elledge said. "Just because they throw acorns at you doesn't mean they are out to get you. It may, however, mean that you are a bad person and they're just warning others."

As a child, Elledge found a squirrel that had been hurt by a neighborhood cat. He and his sister raised it and the squirrel quickly became a part of their family. He said it hurts him to think what the world would be like without nature's little ninjas.

He went on to say that the squirrels might be trying to tell us something.

"On campus, we displaced so many squirrel families when we cut down trees for the new liberal arts building," Elledge said. "They don't have homes and we can't use that building so, maybe they are telling us to be good to Mother Nature."

According to squirrels.org, when a squirrel senses danger, its first instinct is to stand motionless. It will then proceed to find a tree and circle it with its body pressed tightly to the trunk. This can be taken as a warning to others.

In other situations, they will erratically change directions when they feel they are being chased. Sadly, this is usually a bad decision when what's chasing them happens to be an oncoming vehicle.

Though it seems like a lot is out to get the squirrels in their daily lives, sometimes trouble just finds them.

When Maria Biancamano was leaving a class recently, she saw two baby squirrels fall from a tree to the sidewalk.

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