December 17, 2021 | OPINION | By Tom Byron | Illustration by Sydney Morris

The West Campus squirrels have finally gone too far. We’ve lived with these rat bastards for years. They’ve stolen our food, dug through our trash, and terrified our prospies with the sheer power of their size and presence. They knew how much effort it took to bully a freshman out of his French fries, or just how close they’d let us get to them before they scampered off the rim of the Preserve compost bins, and so we tolerated them.

We knew the risks that went with eating outside Benji’s or putting up a hammock between the trees behind Cutler. Sometimes you’d be fine, sometimes you’d lose your food; sometimes a squirrel trying desperately to drag a half-eaten blueberry muffin up a pine tree would drop its stolen goods onto your laptop and it’d take half an hour to get the crumbs out of the keyboard. They were a menace — but one we’d learned to live with.

But ever since the start of this year, the squirrels have upped their game. Maybe the lack of food from last year’s COVID-19 policies made them desperate; maybe they’ve lost their fear of people from that year we spent inside; maybe they’ve finally just snapped and decided to teach us all a lesson. Whatever the reason, the squirrels of Colorado College no longer feel restraint or caution. As a result, West Campus is under attack, and it seems like there isn’t much we can do to resist.

It began a few months ago, when the McGregor Hall group chat started talking about hearing sounds in the walls. Apparently, some squirrels had found their way into the building, but besides freaking some people out, they didn’t do much damage and didn’t seem to find a way to get out of the walls and ceilings. That all changed when they figured out how to get through the windows.

A friend of mine sent a video to our group chat of a squirrel lying on her bed after having chewed through the wire mesh of her window, leaving a torn chunk of wire laying on the inside windowsill. It took her and another friend more than an hour to chase it out of the room. But before long, it was back.

Though we all saw it on the hall chat, we didn’t really believe it. A squirrel actually breaking into a building and then terrorizing a student seemed too insane to really be true.

I thought so too, at least until a squirrel tore open my dorm room window screen, ripped the sleeve of Oreos I’d been eating apart, took a few, and then left the way it came before I even got home. I had to call maintenance to replace my screen, and after what had happened to my friend upstairs, they installed a special extra-strength screen, almost twice as thick as a normal one, to prevent the squirrels from getting through it again.

A few weeks later, a squirrel broke into the McGregor kitchen. Nobody was really sure how, but someone managed to trap it in there and call Campus Safety when they left for class in the morning. By the time I got home nearly eight hours later, two campo officers were still trying to chase it out an emergency door. It took me and another student helping to hold open doors and block the stairwells for them to finally get it outside.

Most recently, someone else living on my floor made the mistake of leaving his window slightly open when he left for Fall Break, and once he got back, found that it’d been turned into a squirrel frat party. They’d broken in and lived there for more than a week while he was away, and they’d left their fleas behind. He had to get the room fumigated, and he hasn’t been able to sleep in his own bed for days.

The campus authorities seem like they have no idea what to do. They’ve helped us fortify our dorm rooms or clear out the most recent invader, but they can’t get rid of the squirrels. The rodents live here too, and short of cutting down every tree on West Campus and sending out pest control, there’s no way to stop them from making themselves at home.

Of course, once you get your room broken into and your food ransacked, you start losing sympathy for the beady-eyed little devils pretty quickly. A few of my friends responded to their run-ins with the squirrels by telling me that we should be allowed to hunt down any squirrel we see on campus, with BB guns or blow darts if necessary, and I haven’t exactly heard many other ideas.

But unless President Richardson decides to declare open season, it seems like all we can do is hunker down and defend ourselves. Close your windows, hide your food, reinforce your screens, and keep a close eye on the next squirrel you see watching you as you walk across campus. McGregor and West Campus might be today’s front line, but nowhere is truly safe. Once the squirrels get tired of toying with us, your room might be next.

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