Campus wildlife a nuisance in residential halls, public areas

“I grew up in New York City and the only place I ever saw rats was in the subways. At Williams, I was confronted by an enormous rat right in front of the library,” said Kaitlin Rahl ’02.

Rahl is not alone. There seems to be an influx of wildlife on campus in recent years, or maybe it just seems that way because the animals on Williams campus do not seem to be intimidated by people. The squirrels in Williamstown seem to be a different species than the squirrels that live in New York. They are confrontational, overweight, often times aggressive, and “as big as cats,” according to Sarah Knup ’02. Whereas most squirrels scurry away from humans, Williams’ squirrels often make eye contact and even approach people. They prance around campus like it is their kingdom.

Indeed, Williams has an interesting squirrel history. Assistant Director of Security David boyer recalls that in the late ’80s, “Bryant students had a pet squirrel named George. The squirrel was relatively tame and would come in and watch TV with the residents.” Gone, however, are the golden days of student-animal bliss. More recently, Boyer confirms that security officers have had to respond to disturbances, specifically at Sage, where a squirrel appeared to be “screaming, going crazy and making direct eye contact with the officer.”

Unfortunately, squirrels, which are merely a nuisance, are not the only animals prancing around our campus. Recently, security was called when students spotted a bear near the entrance of the library. Boyer states, “we’ve had a few on campus without incident. The recent bear was young enough so there was concern that the mother was around.” Students, however, are less blasé about the presence of bears on campus,

“All I know is that if I were walking home late at night and I saw a bear I would probably end up in the health center with post-traumatic stress syndrome,” said Jess Marmor ’02.

Tyler house residents can relate to Rahl’s disgust with the presence of rats on campus, given the recent presence of rats in Tyler House. Director of Housing Tom McEvoy, stated, “There was a rat spotted in Tyler last semester and then reports earlier this semester. Obviously the students immediately – and loudly – reported them and we went from there.”

Rahl’s disgust with rats, however, goes beyond their appearance but extends to their role as “carriers of disease.” McEvoy, however, emphasizes that he and “Ruth Harrison from the health center met with many of the Tyler students to explain that this kind of rat does not carry disease. The danger would come if the student was bitten.” Fortunately, there were no reports of students bitten by rats in Tyler house.

Other animals seen around campus and not particularly welcomed by students are skunks. Cristi Gunther ’01 was confronted by a skunk in Greylock Quad late one night. She recalled, “I turned around and saw a skunk facing me, back arched and tail straight up in the air. It was only about 15 feet away from me. As I began to walk away it relaxed and sauntered out into the middle of the quad, stopping to sniff at the ground occasionally.” Luckily, Gunther escaped unsprayed. Boyer reports that most skunks at Williams actually take up residence underneath Dodd Annex.

In addition to rats, skunks, squirrels and bears, Boyer reports that over the years Williams has seen a wide variety of untamed visitors including moose, loons, hawks, bats and deer. These animals not only seem unafraid of Williams students, but, like George the tamed squirrel, some of these animals seem overly eager to join the Williams College social scene.

Who says Williams is not a diverse campus? Students here get to party with a wide array of species and are often confronted by things which do not look like them. Not everyone wears J.Crew and Fleece— around campus one will see a lot of fur coats and even big bushy tails. Rahl says, “this is not the kind of diversity I am looking for; I really hate rodents.” Perhaps this is a good oppurtunity to embrace differences.