Information systems sophomore Kate Wood said she loathes the squirrels on campus because of what one did to her car.
The morning of March 20, Wood tried to start her blue Nissan Rogue outside the Garden Club Apartments by the UTA bookstore. She said her car turned on but wouldn’t start.
Confused, she opened the hood and found a squirrel nesting behind one of the front headlights.
The squirrel had chewed through several wires, ripping up the underside of her hood to build itself a nest.
Wood said the damage cost a total of $3,500.
“It was just so bizarre,” she said. “It’s like one of those things that literally happened in a movie or in an advertisement for insurance.”
Wood said no one would expect something like that to happen on a university campus, but it serves as an example that the squirrel population at UTA is getting out of hand.
She said such a large population of squirrels scurrying around campus conveys a sense of neglect.
The university should consider population management because although the squirrels are cute, they don’t do much other than eat nuts and harass students, she said.
Wood said she’s never tried to play with them because she realizes they’re wild animals.
“What if some of them have fleas or something? Or a tick?” she said. “What if they bite you?”
She said it’s not worth the risk to play with a rodent, no matter how cute.
Health Services director Angela Middleton said the health center has seen an increased number of squirrel bites in the past few years, and she’s noticed the squirrels become comfortable with approaching students.
Since the beginning of the semester, four students have come to Health Services with squirrel bites, Middleton said.
She said the squirrels’ boldness is likely caused by them living on campus among so many people who attempt to feed them.
“They’ve learned to associate humans with food,” she said. “And so they’re probably approaching looking for food.”
Initially, students would tell Middleton they were bit after trying to feed the squirrels, but recently students have claimed the squirrels approached them first. If things go wrong, the student ends up in the health center with a squirrel bite, Middleton said.
She said squirrels are likely to bite when they feel threatened or attacked.
Fortunately, squirrels are rodents, and rodents rarely carry rabies, Middleton said.
Since there isn’t much danger of contracting a disease from a squirrel, treatment for a squirrel bite is simple. The first step should be basic first aid.
Stop any bleeding and wash the bite in soap and water. Students should go back to Health Services or another doctor if they notice any signs of infection, such as redness, pus or increasing pain.
Generally, squirrel bites don’t cause any cosmetic damage, so stitches aren’t usually necessary, Middleton said.
She recommended avoiding interaction with the squirrels.
“It’s not like a dog or something that’s domesticated,” Middleton said. “Just like you wouldn’t go pet a rat that you saw, you’re not going to go pet a squirrel.”
Sakshi Bachhav, international business and French freshman, said she learned the hard way not to mess with the squirrels.
One day, she was walking to class with some breadsticks from the Market and noticed one of the squirrels outside Trimble Hall, she said. Since the squirrel seemed friendly, she decided to share a breadstick with it.
Bachhav said the squirrel walked right up to her as she stooped down to offer it a piece of her snack.
She said she was surprised by how sharp the squirrel’s claws were when it scratched her finger after stealing the bread.
“It was kind of selfish,” Bachhav said. “It just ran away after taking it.”
As an international student, Bachhav said she was fascinated with the squirrels when she came to UTA because the squirrels here are different than the ones she’s used to in Nashik, India.
In Nashik, the squirrels are much smaller and feral, so she immediately felt drawn to the larger, friendlier squirrels, she said. Like many students, she enjoys posting pictures and videos of them on her social media.
“They are really cute, and I want to see them around,” she said.
However, Bachhav said she doesn’t plan on feeding them anymore.
“It’s really nice to be around animals and nature for the students,” she said.
“But the university should, at the same time, just to balance out the situation,
inform the students that not to feed them.”
English senior Kori Audet runs the Squirrels of UTA Instagram account, an account dedicated to the squirrels on campus.
She said she was inspired to start the account last spring while she was sitting in the grass outside the main library eating.
As a few squirrels approached her, she broke off a piece of her cinnamon belVita Breakfast Biscuit to share with them, Audet said.
She said she interacted with the squirrels a few times during the next few days and began taking picture of the critters. Finally, she decided to create an Instagram account to share her pictures and provide a small source of joy to her followers.
“Some people might think it’s dumb or just pointless or whatever,” Audet said.“But I just think it’s a nice, simple, non-stressful thing.”
She said she realizes that sometimes they bite people, but thinks it’s up to each individual to practice their own discretion and common sense to avoid getting bit.