Manchester University
Oak Leaves

April 7, 2023 - Joak Leaves

Domesticated Squirrels to Live in Residential Halls

Miriam Erbaugh

Beginning in August 2023, Residential Life will be introducing dorm squirrels to roam the halls of East, Garver, Oakwood and Helman. They will be domesticated from the local population and housed in the dorms purely for the students’ enjoyment. Each squirrel will be given a dedicated area with a squirrel-sized bed, dining options, entertainment and whatever else they might need.

“We identified a need,” Abby Van Vlerah, Vice President for Student Life, explained. “Students were asking for ways to not only connect with nature but also to have a sense of security: to have a sense of home in the residence halls.”

“They’re great snuggle buddies,” said Jane Webb, Director of Residential Life and Title IX Coordinator. “I think it’s fantastic. Who doesn’t want a little squirrel scampering about their residence hall?”

The student population is largely in favor of the addition. “Personally, I feel like squirrels as dorm pets would be very calming and soothing for the students at Manchester,” said Madison Cunningham, a first-year student and East Hall resident. “I feel like it would keep student life very interesting and give students something to do.”

Dorm residents of other species are also excited at the proposal of new neighbors. “We love squirrels at Manchester,” said Grace Parker, a first-year student and East Hall resident. “My dorm cat Louie would love to have more play dates, and he would love a squirrel play date!”

Another student pointed out that it might keep students from bringing in unsanctioned pets that might be less favorable. “It’s better than the roaches I keep,” said Lucy Cooper, a sophomore resident of Garver Hall.

The decision to have squirrels become dorm pets was made partially due to proximity. “They’re just so readily available on our campus,” explained Webb.

“We’re going to trap them,” elaborated Van Vlerah, “They’re locally sourced squirrels.”

The squirrels also tie into Manchester’s traditions. “We’re all about acorns to oaks,” explained Webb. “And so (with the addition of squirrels) we’ll just have acorns all over.”

The squirrels will be primarily allowed to roam freely after they finish their domestication training. Small doors will be installed in each building so that the squirrels can come and go as they please. “We don’t want them to feel trapped,” Webb said.

Neither Webb nor Van Vlerah are worried about the squirrels escaping. “We have heating and air conditioning, and they don’t get that outside,” Webb said.

“Once we start feeding them inside the residence halls, all the more reason for them to stay. . . I can’t imagine them wanting to escape,” Van Vlerah declared.

If the dorm squirrel experiment is a success, the President and his Cabinet are considering changing the school’s mascot to a squirrel. Students would participate in voting for their favorite dorm squirrel at the end of fall semester, and the elected squirrel would attend all campus events to represent the University.

Some of the exact details of the squirrels’ addition to campus have not been fully decided on. The domestication process will likely begin while students are away over the summer, and decisions on the exact number of squirrels in each dorm are currently being finalized. “Some people thought we should have one for every student, but that seemed unmanageable,” said Van Vlerah. 

“We’re thinking minimally one per floor, and potentially one for each wing. Ideally there would be a Residence-Assistant-to-squirrel ratio that was one to one.”

The squirrels will be named by students in the fall through a variety of methods. There will be contests in the Oak Leaves and polls on social media. “If people want to submit options for names, they can either post them on Yik Yak or they can reach out to their hall director,” explained Van Vlerah.

The squirrels will be taken care of by Residential Life throughout the academic year. “Over the summer we would transfer it over to Conference Services so that some of the camps that come can also experience the wonderful squirrel life,” Webb said.

A squirrel council consisting of student representatives from each dorm will be created to vote on all decisions relating to the squirrels. Their first task will be designing squirrel enrichment equipment to be installed in each dorm’s lounge.