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Sunday, April 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

Squirrels amiss on campus

By Jennifer Shen     10/24/12 7:00pm


The old joke, "Rice has more squirrels than students," may not be true anymore with the increased student enrollment and what now seems to be a decreased squirrel population.

One of the popular theories among students is that Housing and Dining may have reduced the number of squirrels in the interest of Centennial.

"[My friend thought] that maybe the University has actually tried to relocate the squirrels or in some way sweep them aside for Centennial so that you don't have a hundred rodents running around when people are trying to walk," Sid Richardson college senior Charlie Behr said.

Susann Glenn, manager of communications for Facilities Engineering and Planning, said H&D did not do anything with the squirrels.

"We love the squirrels here," Glenn said. "They are a special part of the unique culture on this campus."

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Assistant Professor Amy Dunham said that the population of Rice's squirrels may have decreased from the intense drought and spotty acorn crop last year.

"Texas Parks and Wildlife reports that fox squirrel population numbers are down in some regions," Dunham said.

However, Dunham said there is an overabundance of acorns this year.

According to Glenn, Grounds Superintendent for Facilities Engineering and Planning Ron Smith thinks that because of the excess of acorns, squirrels have been coming out less frequently since they no longer rely on humans for food.

"They're around, but have been hanging out in their trees," Glenn said.

Will Rice College senior Aurelia Fu said she noticed that there are fewer squirrels on campus when she had to count them for a lab she is taking.

"We walked around campus for [over] two hours, and we counted less than 25," Fu said.

Dunham said squirrels reproduce quickly in good years, and with plenty of food around, she expects Rice squirrel population to boom next season.

"I expect that next year you will see the squirrels back in force on campus, maybe more than we have seen in a long time," Dunham said.

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