Words and photos by Sarah Wool, staff contributor
I grew up in an area of Alabama where squirrels are restless and apprehensive. They sustain themselves on meager portions of acorns and the like, and their chalky-gray coats cover small, scrawny physiques. They emerge from their nests with the intention to forage. Leisure time is rare. They must always take care to avoid close proximity to humans, lest they risk contact, entrapment, or even death. These squirrels are neurotic, intense, and mistrustful, endowed with a fair amount of ethnological anxiety. In fact, they are so flighty that I often forget to take any note of them—until I come home after an extended stay in the company of the Colorado College Squirrel. On CC’s campus, the squirrel is celebrated. Students are endlessly entertained by its antics, the poise of its gait, and the tender rolls of fat beneath its honey-blonde fur.
Most CC squirrels are Fox Squirrels, binomial classification Sciurus niger—the largest type of tree squirrel in the United States. Perhaps because of their size, these squirrels are boldly self-assured, with a definite sense of entitlement. I once saw a squirrel take an entire slice of bread from a trash can and eat it top to bottom, totally undaunted by the fact that the bread was probably three-quarters the size of the standing squirrel. They approach students often enough that individual squirrels become recognizable; it would be unusual, but not entirely surprising to hear, “Oh, there’s the one that’s so obese it can hardly walk!” or “That one knocked up two squirrels by Loomis!”
I took the opportunity to acquaint myself with some big, happy CC squirrels, and examined their everyday trials and triumphs. Sometimes, they get chunks of baked goods or find an exciting paper bag atop a trashcan. Sometimes, they perform such daring maneuvers as a leap from a tree branch to a flight of stairs. Sometimes, in the absence of better options, they chew empty ketchup containers from Benji’s. And the majority of the time (aside from rare occasions when they bite humans or spread rabies and the Bubonic plague), they bring us entertainment.