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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Campus

Students debate feeding squirrels on campus


The squirrels on campus are fox squirrels. | Ian Everett/The Cougar

The squirrels on campus are fox squirrels. | Ian Everett/The Cougar

The normal diet of the fox squirrel consists of nuts, insects, corn, oats and occasionally fruit. Except at UH, where that might include a french fry or two from students.

It’s common while walking around campus to see someone feeding a squirrel. Fruit, nuts, cereal, chips and more, if students eat it, rest assured, the campus squirrels will get their share.

“I usually have a snack that I can share with them,” said geology sophomore Aubrey Garmon. “Sometimes, when I remember, I will bring a bag of Cheerios.” 

The squirrels that linger around campus are fox squirrels, according to associate biology professor Ann Cheek, which typically live for about seven to eight years and is the biggest of the breed. 

“I enjoy feeding the squirrels, because it makes me happy seeing them happy,” said computer information systems sophomore Zachary Hilburn.

Fox squirrels are native to Texas and the southeastern U.S. Their preferred habitat is an open space with trees spread throughout, according to Cheek.

“Our campus layout is perfect for these types of species,” Creek said.

Part of what makes campus perfect for the squirrels is the students that feed them. 

“The times that I have fed the squirrels, I would feed them plain crackers, because I don’t want to give them anything that would potentially harm them,” Hilburn said.

Although the squirrels seem to ask for food, during the summer and winter when there are fewer students to feed them, they are still able to find food for themselves due to the trees around campus. Cheek said feeding the squirrels daily is now making the squirrels lazier and seek students out for food more instead of foraging.   

“People shouldn’t keep feeding them because they’re going to get used to being hand fed and not having to work to get their food,” said exercise science sophomore Genesis Manzano.

There are other students that choose to not feed the squirrels out of fear of them potentially coming dangerous. 

“I don’t feed them,” said accounting junior Charis Stinson. “I’m scared of what they may do.” 

Despite the squirrel’s bold behavior, they do not seem to be aggressive toward people. 

“The biggest danger I would see for us is getting annoyed with the squirrel coming up to us asking for food,” Cheek said. 

For some students feeding the squirrels is more than providing them with a necessity to survive. 

“I feed the squirrels because it’s a way I relieve stress in between classes and connect with nature,” Garmon said.

Engaging with the squirrels is becoming more frequent since we share our campus and their home.

“As students, I think it’s something that adds a sense of community,” Garmon said. “I’d love to see it continue to become widespread on campus.”

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