The squirrel deportation and resensitization program

By Henry Soong

I’m very afraid of the squirrels that live on campus – the ones who’ll follow you like a pack of wild dogs if you’re walking to class alone in the dark. With their little scampering claw-paws, I’m pretty sure they could stage a coup d’état and be running the University within days if they wanted to.

Defying nature, the campus squirrels don’t seem to hibernate during the winter. Every morning, they scurry to-and-fro across a snow-blanketed Quad attending to their business while students jog late to class. Occasionally, they’ll pause and stand on hind legs, surveying a monotonous sea of North Face jackets. They’re too desensitized to people, if you ask me, and the situation is not being helped by people actively making friends with them.

A while ago, I saw a man feeding Chex Mix to a small posse of squirrels like they were ducks at a pond. The euphoric group ate half the bag before the elderly gentleman got up to leave. But having tasted the wonders of toasted Chex squares and rye bread, they followed the man as he shooed them away with his cap.

The posse dispersed, deciding to badger a tour group of high schoolers and parents instead. A little girl in the group shrieked in terror and threw her bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos at the swarm, running in the opposite direction of the tour, pigtails bobbing comically behind her.

A friend of mine has also had a bad experience with the squirrels of campus. One particularly intrepid squirrel decided to share a table with her as she read one morning outside the Union. It hopped onto her table and took careful steps towards her Chemistry book, seeming to take great interest. Not knowing what to do, my friend kicked the table and fled inside the Union. She vows never to read there again.

More recently, I happened to notice a squirrel chasing its tail on top of one of the University’s metal-lidded stone trash cans. The squirrel was having a merry time running circles around and around the lid until it lost its balance and tumbled into the can like a discarded bottle of water.

Sounds of it frantically scratching and searching for an exit echoed from deep within the rubbish heap. After a good minute or two of laughing, I worked up the courage to lift the top of the bin so the squirrel could hop out. The crafty squirrel, however, managed to escape just before I came to its rescue. It hopped out onto the metal cap, and the two of us faced each other in a slow-mo, Matrix-like moment.

I won’t lie. I ran away screaming from the trash can just like the pigtailed little girl.

I’m well aware that the University’s squirrels have quite a large fan base considering the official “U of I Squirrels Rock my World!” Facebook group that is 222 members strong. However, I refuse to let these Chex Mix-grubbing, patio table-hogging, trash can-inhabiting little monsters chase the good students of the University into hiding.

Therefore, I am calling on the University to take swift action to deport all squirrels on campus grounds to somewhere remote, far from human contact. I am also proposing that all deported squirrels also enter a human resensitization program to re-instill their natural fear of humans.

Any attempts to alter squirrels’ fearless campus behavior will require extreme measures. I suggest hiring a handful of Olympic sprinters to chase tirelessly after the squirrels on the Armory track. After several hours of terrifying pursuit, their fear of humans should return. It may be a costly and time-consuming program, but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Picture a day in the distant future when you or I can open a trash can without being attacked by a volley of skittering squirrels. The truth is, we can have such a bright future. Vote “yes” on Tuesday Feb. 26 or Wednesday Feb. 27 for the University of Illinois Squirrel Deportation and Resensitization Program.

Henry is a freshman in Business. He is also in favor of introducing owls to cull the explosive squirrel population on campus.