[Vision2020] Friendly squirrels

Saundra Lund sslund at roadrunner.com
Sat May 12 12:07:58 PDT 2007

Hi Carl,

Thanks for posting this fascinating info!

All right, UI:  this is a challenge for those of you on campus!!!  WSU gets
a 3 out of 5 possible on the Friendly Squirrel scale, but I don't see the UI
there at all  :-(((  It's been a few <g> years since I spent much time on
campus, but I'm sure the UI squirrels are still more friendly than those at

Sooo, someone needs to get busy and get the UI on the Friendly Squirrel

Saundra Lund
Moscow, ID

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do
- Edmund Burke

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-----Original Message-----
From: vision2020-bounces at moscow.com [mailto:vision2020-bounces at moscow.com]
On Behalf Of Carl Westberg
Sent: Saturday, May 12, 2007 11:49 AM
To: vision2020 at moscow.com
Subject: [Vision2020] Friendly squirrels

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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