Opinion: Let’s talk about our squirrels


Nick Reimann

A squirrel eats food from a Palm Court garbage can on Loyola’s Campus in New Orleans, La., while their obese-looking counterpart lurks in the background on Nov. 29, 2017. The campus is home to many squirrels, who often dig into the garbage for food. Photo credit: Nick Reimann

Grant Dufrene

In September, local news agencies reported that the city of New Orleans “apprehended three squirrels” after reported attacks. U.S. News and World Report circulated the story, giving it national attention.

If you’re a student at Loyola, you’ve probably had an interaction with one of the furry animals, albeit in less violent ways.

Walking through the Palm Court or the old Smokers’ Alley in the Peace Quad, our furry friends have probably scampered in front of you, but this semester I’ve noticed the squirrels seem portlier than last winter, and it isn’t because they’re stocking up on acorns.

It’s undeniable that these small mammals are cute and chubby; however, they are extremely unhealthy.

Most mornings you can find the campus squirrels jumping in and out of the trash cans eating unfinished sandwiches, soggy french fries, discarded ice cream cones, dropped candy bars and occasional apple cores.

Last Friday, I even saw a squirrel take a McDonald’s cup out of the trash and tear open the styrofoam to get the sticky, sweet soda at the bottom. All of this sugar is like crack to squirrels — they cannot get enough.

This is not part of the squirrels’ natural diet. They should be eating seeds, nuts, fungi, fruits and other green vegetation.

The toll this new diet has taken on them is clear. The squirrel with one-fourth of a tail has become too hefty to climb and has instead abandoned its life in the oaks to accept a new identity as a lowly gopher.

I’m well aware that when dealing with such an absurd subject matter, some may not want to take this seriously, but this goes far beyond squirrels. We should be doing all that we can to coexist with our environment in a way that causes the least amount of damage.

The situation with the squirrels is just one small issue that can easily be fixed to lessen our affect on the local environment. Hopefully after checking this environmental initiative off our list, we can gain the momentum to tackle others, but for the time being, the simple solution to this problem is self-closing trash cans.

Many cities have replaced open trash cans with heavier ones. Yes, this will prevent you from lobbing that styrofoam cup into the can from five feet away as you walk by, but sacrificing the 30 seconds it takes to actually walk up and pull it open doesn’t seem like much when you consider the long-term benefits it will have.

If Loyola has the money to ice the front lawn in a decadent attempt to offer students a snowy celebration before finals, I’m sure we have the funds to replace the outdoor waste bins.