Campus rallies around Vanilla Bean the squirrel

By Cecilia Milmoe, Features Editor

When walking around campus, it’s hard to miss the squirrels running around. In the past, many students rallied around a unique squirrel named Pinto Bean. Now, a new squirrel has captured the hearts of those on campus: Vanilla Bean.

Named after its fully white coat, Vanilla Bean has been making rounds on the University subreddit. Many students have posted pictures they’ve taken of it and replied to other posts about it.

Jas Jacobson, junior in LAS, said that she likes having unique squirrels on campus.

“I think Vanilla Bean is really cute,” Jacobson said. “I think it’s cool that we have so many squirrels on campus, and these specific squirrels, everyone knows them because they’re cool looking.”

Kyle Heimburger, senior in LAS, said that it’s nice to have another unique squirrel on campus.

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“I think it’s great that there is another campus squirrel, especially after the tragedy of what happened to Pinto Bean,” Heimburger said.

Jack Mason, sophomore in Engineering, said that he likes having squirrels on campus.

“I think it’s kind of nice,” Mason said. “I always like to see squirrels in general on campus because it just makes it feel like home, something unique to the University.”

Jacobson echoed this sentiment, saying that unique squirrels can help build community on campus.

“I think they’re distinct … and being able to identify a squirrel gives a sense of community and a sense of belonging,” Jacobson said. “And also, a bunch of strangers all know about the same squirrel, and people bond over knowing about squirrels.”

Tomas Pelesinas, senior in ACES, said that having unique squirrels like Vanilla Bean on campus can be fun.

“If you see (a squirrel) that sticks out, you can’t help but cherish it, like, ‘wow, that’s like the odd ball of the squirrel family,’” Pelesinas said. “And then if someone posts it, and everyone else sees it, and then they start to see it outside when they’re walking the class, then it just becomes a really fun little thing.”

Pelesinas said that he has seen Vanilla Bean “off campus but not too far away, in Urbana right off of Lincoln, mainly on Busey Street.”

Amidst all the excitement, many have expressed worries over the safety of Vanilla Bean after what happened to Pinto Bean.

Peggy Currid, assistant to editor in chief of the Illinois Journal of Mathematics, said that she is worried about getting attached to another squirrel.

“I kind of hesitate to get all involved with another squirrel and look at their photos,” Currid said. “And, you know, squirrels don’t really have a huge lifespan in an urban setting.”

Jacobson echoed this sentiment.

“I feel like we’re setting ourselves up for another Pinto Bean situation,” Jacobson said. “So I’m kind of worried and I’m kind of sad because I’m thinking that’s like our little mascot, but then again, it’s also a squirrel on campus. And they unfortunately get into bad situations. But, you know, it’s better to have loved than to never have loved at all.”

Mason, however, said he is not worried about Vanilla Bean.

“I imagine that it probably has no shortage of food and secure areas,” Mason said. “I think (what happened to Pinto Bean) was a one-off thing.”

With Vanilla Bean being given a similar name to the late Pinto Bean, some are seeing Vanilla Bean as the successor to the legendary squirrel. Currid said she hopes Vanilla Bean can achieve the same level of fame.

“If you’re going to be a successor, a unique squirrel that people, especially students, get so much fun out of seeing, I think it’s very important, and I hope Vanilla Bean rises to the occasion,” Currid said.

Jacobson said that she doesn’t want the squirrels to compete for fame.

“I don’t want to pit Vanilla Bean against Pinto Bean,” Jacobson said. “Both are great squirrels and both have a large impact on community, and I hope that we see a lot more cool squirrels over the years.”

Heimburger said that he thinks the two squirrels having similar names is important.

“I think it’s important to continue the bean trend to connect it back to Pinto Bean, the OG,” Heimburger said. “Even though I don’t really like the name, I think the most important part is that everyone calls it the same thing. So people decided collectively that Vanilla Bean is what we’ll call it, and Vanilla Bean is what we shall call it.”

Heimburger said that these unique squirrels can serve as a pleasant distraction.

“I feel like we are always surrounded by squirrels,” Heimburger said. “Even if they don’t have crazy colors or anything, they’re still a huge part of campus culture. So when there are these unique squirrels, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a unique squirrel.’ And it’s fun to care about things that aren’t academics or things that are actually important. ”


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