Something squirrely this way comes

By Hailey Kurth

“I think the squirrels of DeKalb are genetically mutated into super-squirrels,” said Blake Box, senior family individual development major.

Box said when she approaches squirrels on campus, most stand their ground. She is forced to move out of their way, which is not something she’s used to.

Seth Magle, director of Urban Wildlife Institute at Lincoln Park Zoo, said this is due to a process that wildlife in urban areas often undergo, called habituation: When the squirrels are exposed to humans so frequently with no negative interactions, they start to lose their natural fear. Magle said he’s seen this happen on a lot of different college campuses.

“I actually had one run inside my backpack one time when I left it on the ground on a college campus,” Magle said. “It was probably looking for food.”

Magle said he does not recommend people feed wild animals because it tends to lead the animal to approach more people and behave aggressively. He said he experienced this firsthand when he was younger and tried to feed a squirrel.

“The squirrel definitely scratched a big gouge out of my hand,” Magle said. “They’re really going to try to get into that food.”

Magle said another problem with feeding wildlife is the animals could become reliant on that food source and will forget how to search for sustenance on their own.

Health Services Director Christine Grady said to her knowledge, Health Services has not seen any injuries due to the wildlife at NIU. Grady said if a student is bitten by a squirrel, they should wash the wound with soap and water and call DeKalb County Animal Control.

“Animal Control could tell them if there are any cases of rabies in the county and if they need to fill out a report or do anything else,” Grady said

While walking on campus, some students may see squirrels acting strange or making a lot of noise. Magle said disease is a possible reason for this, but that is unlikely. He said this could be due to breeding season, when squirrels sometimes act more rambunctious. Another possibility, Magle said, is the animals just have strange behavioral adaptations.

“Animals, just like humans, have different personalities and behave differently,” Magle said.

Junior English major Martha Ross said she feels like they look at students like the humans are the ones acting odd, not them.

“They just think that they’re the ones that run the street and humans are supposed to be the ones running away,” Ross said.