[Vision2020] Friendly squirrels (or something more sinister?)

Tim Lohrmann timlohr at yahoo.com
Sat May 12 12:06:55 PDT 2007

Friendly you say?
  Don't be so sure.
  Visit the site below...click around, educate yourself.
  You may come to a much different conclusion!

  Yours in safety,
  "Those 'technicalities' have a name, Bobby.  They're called the Bill of Rights."
                                                                                ----Hank Hill
  Carl Westberg <carlwestberg846 at hotmail.com> wrote:
  Much ado has been made in some circles about the University of Idaho ad 
campaign with the throwaway line "friendly squirrels" as one of the reasons 
to attend school on our beautiful campus. Well, according to this story 
from the Penn State student newspaper, maybe we're onto something: "Site 
rates 'squirrel friendly' campuses

By Bridget McCrory email
Collegian Staff Writer

As some students daydream on the lawn, the only creatures to disrupt their 
thoughts are the infamous furry squirrels that have recently distinguished 
Penn State as a "four squirrel" school.

On a five-squirrel scale, Penn State received four out of five "squirrels," 
which ranks high on the scale, said Jonathan Gottshall, who compiled the 

Colleges have been ranked on various factors for years, but not for 
Gottshall's "squirrel-friendly" standards.

As stated on Gottshall's Web site (www.gottshall.com), "The quality of an 
institution of higher learning can often be determined by the size, health 
and behavior of the squirrel population on campus."

Gottshall believes squirrel behavior is an indicator of the student body, 
and that squirrels become more adjusted to human contact when students spend 
more time on campus.

"I think squirrels tend to be more friendly at schools that are more 
interesting and have students hanging around campus more," Gottshall said.

A rodent enthusiast, Gottshall said he has loved furry animals since the 
release of The Secret of the NIMH in 1982. He began ranking 
"squirrel-friendly" campuses while studying for a master's degree in history 
at California State University at Fullerton. While researching at different 
college campuses, Gottshall fed squirrels and thought it would be fun to 
rank "squirrel-friendly" schools since it had never been done before.

After observing the squirrel behavior at many campuses, Gottshall created 
his Web site. The site posts every college along with a squirrel-face rating 
for each.

To document colleges, he relies on e-mails from students describing their 
squirrel encounters when he is unable to visit the actual school.

A Pennsylvania field reporter gave a description of Penn State's squirrels, 
and it is quoted on Gottshall's Web site.

"The area around the Mall contains a dense population of some of the 
friendliest, perhaps most demanding squirrels on any college campus. They 
run out in front of students . . . and on several occasions jump on 
unsuspecting students who they believe are harboring treats. I was sitting 
on a bike rack talking to some friends when one came up to me from behind 
and tapped my hand with his paw for a hand-out. Several of the bolder 
individuals will crawl through your pockets, perch on your lap or shoulders 
while eating; I've found two which let me pet them."

The Penn State Altoona College also is listed on Gottshall's Web site. After 
he visited the campus himself, Gottshall described a specific area with a 
dense squirrel population saying, "Many squirrels will come down from the 
trees to see if you have food!"

University Park students seem to agree with Gottshall's rating.

"I definitely think squirrels are more people friendly. Since there are so 
many students around, they have to adjust to students more," said Heather 
Neinast (senior-psychology) said.

Some students said squirrels appear friendly because they approach humans 
for food.

"People feeding them gives them the incentive to come up to humans," Matt 
Debear (freshman-division of undergraduate studies) said.

Few students had negative opinions of the outgoing squirrels at Penn State.

"People here aren't mean to them so they're not scared to be around us," 
Rhonda Tilgner (junior- communications) said.

While some students see squirrels in a friendly light, campus staff 
addressed why the squirrels seem upbeat.

Duane Diefenbach, adjunct assistant professor in the school of forest 
resources, said like most park situations with few predators, squirrels are 
not afraid of humans because they see humans as a food source instead of a 

In short, as long as students remain active on campus, Penn State's cute 
critters will maintain their friendly appeal."
Carl Westberg Jr.

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