I have been a librarian at the University of Michigan since 2005. And even though I enjoy my job, I do take a break almost every day and enjoy walks on campus. These walks give me time to think, time to reset, and maybe most importantly, time to feed the squirrels.
This is the part, more than anything, than connects me with hundreds of thousands of people who were at the University for over 100 years. Through historic postcards, I discovered that people have been referring to squirrels as the campus pets for over 100 years.
As for my tradition, I have been doing that since around 2008.
A typical day with my squirrel friends involves bringing two items. One, a small bag of peanuts (I get roasted and unsalted). And two, my camera. In many ways, they do just fine without the peanuts. There are plenty of acorns across campus, and I have seen squirrels eat all sorts of student discarded food including pop tarts, pizza, cookies, apples and even a churro.
The peanuts maybe are just a treat for them, but it is fun for me. I have gotten really good at tossing peanuts towards the squirrels. They always seem appreciative. On occasion, they run towards the peanut and I have been known to accidentally hit one with a peanut. I am sure they would be scored an error on the fielder’s part!
And maybe the best part of feeding them is that they come very close to you. Years of close quarters with students and others on campus have made squirrels very friendly and not timid at all. They will come right up to you - even closer if you stop. In many instances, I have been close enough to touch them, but I never do. However, twice last winter, I a squirrel climb my leg. He got to my knee, then jumped off and ran away. It was the craziest feeling. When they get close, you can take the very best squirrel pictures (which I have plenty on flickr).
My favorite places for squirrels on campus include the Law Quad, the area between the President’s House and Hatcher Library, the Diag, near the Power Center, and in front of Angell Hall (on State Street). And while these are where I typically find my squirrel friends, they are just about everywhere on campus.
So everyday in every season, I take a lunchtime walk with the squirrels on campus. It helps me reset and gives me great joy - not to mention great photographic subjects. And that is why The University of Michigan is my favorite wildlife refuge in the state!
Corey Seeman is the Director of Kresge Library Services at the Ross School of Business of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is an avid amateur photographer and cook. He is married (Pam) and has two adult sons in college. He lives in Saline, Michigan...and loves squirrels.