Bella Loxtercamp – Squirrel Investigator
The squirrels of Gustavus are organizing to overthrow. When I first moved on campus, I thought they were cute. I wanted to catch one and keep it as a pet, and I seriously considered petitioning to change Gus the Lion to Gus the Squirrel. Being adorable, however, doesn’t equal being friendly. The squirrels here are a different breed. They skitter about, leaping from tree to tree, staring at us with beady unblinking eyes and launching nut casings at us. They’ve made it clear they don’t care about us, darting across the path mere inches away, not even moving as we walk by. Any attempt to catch one, however, is null– squirrels can run up to 20 mph according to livescience.com. This means that while they can evade us, we cannot evade them.
Hear me out before you think me a nut.
First-year Izzy Delaney was walking back to her dorm one night. The sky was dark, the sun hidden behind clouds, and the air was damp with rain. She made it halfway home before she heard it; a cry, broken and high-pitched. She stopped in her tracks. “I thought maybe it was a cat. Or a child,” Izzy said. “I was genuinely concerned.” As if responding to the first one, a chorus of shrieks pierced the air. Izzy broke into a brisk walk. She passed a cluster of trees. Amid the shrieks, a new sound began; scratching and rustling, as if the tree beside her was coming to life and stretching its creaky limbs. Slowly, afraid to breathe, she turned her head. The leaves shook, and a squirrel crept down the trunk, staring directly at her, the way predators do. Then, it opened its mouth. A scream between a hawk and human. Izzy didn’t wait to see what it would do next. She raced back to the dorm and relayed her experience.
In a poll done with my pod the next day, 71% said that the squirrels are out to get us. While the opinion of the majority does not make something correct, the evidence stacks up.
National Geographic says that red squirrels will kill their children and eat them.
Author Todd Mitchell states that squirrels will occasionally “gang up” to attack larger animals, citing a case in Russia involving a Rottweiler. If they attacked a Rottweiler for barking at them, who’s to say they won’t attack us? That’s probably why they keep gnawing on acorns– not to prepare for winter, but to sharpen their teeth for premium efficacy when they mobilize. Another interesting behavior was noted just hours before I sat down to write this article; a friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous for protection in the event that the squirrels pick up a copy of the Weekly, saw a squirrel leap off the curb– and do a backflip. What even is that? They’ve gone rogue.
One alternative theory brought to my attention is that the squirrels are protecting us. According to Wild Kratts, squirrels shriek to warn other squirrels of impending danger from a predator. The question then becomes if the squirrels thought we were the predator, or if they are warning their friends and us humans that another predator is near, some higher, far more dangerous entity. It is doubtful that we are predators in this case; as I’ve mentioned, they don’t care about us. Perhaps what was really scaring the squirrels is something of which we’re not yet aware. Perhaps it is the same being that haunts the halls of Uhler and the chapel in Rundy. Or perhaps it’s something worse, lurking in the tunnel beneath the school, waiting for the perfect moment to rise up and eradicate us.
Critics to these theories say that the squirrels are just doing what they were born to do: storing food for spring and preparing for a long winter. I say, one can never be too careful. Whether they’re planning to overthrow or protecting us from danger, it’s a squirrel-eat-squirrel world out there. We’re bound to get caught up in the inevitable disaster; we can only hope it doesn’t wipe us out in the process. Stay safe out there, Gusties, and try not to act too squirrelly.
Author’s note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of the Weekly. They are also based on theoretical conversations; no concrete evidence is provided. Please do not harm the squirrels, and do not hesitate to contact the author if you have any stories or evidence relating to the ongoing case.