As OCU’s resident pair of geese have added two new members to the campus wildlife population, it’s compelling to wonder: what kind of animals are you likely to find on college campuses across the country?
First and foremost, most colleges are overrun with a fuzzy, medium-size rodent, of the family sciuridae. More colloquially, these little buddies are known as squirrels–and they are taking over college campuses across the country. A 2014 USA Today article revealed that many campuses across the country support enormous populations of squirrels, who have become celebrities to students on campus. The article notes “squirrel whisperers” at several universities, students who seem able to summon the acorn-eaters with a glance. OCU had its own case of squirrel-love: who can forget the mini-celebrity Nubbs, the squirrel-sans-tail, who frolicked across the campus with abandon. While Nubbs has passed on, OCU students still take joy from the sight of the dozens of squirrels on campus, who can be seen chasing each other across the quad and stealing Cheetos from the trash.
Perhaps the second-most noticeable members of the wild campus community are the very vocal birds which are often found perched atop cars in the OCU parking lots. Most of these are common crows, whose talkative cries can be heard by students on their way to class. The crows can also be seen on the quad (unless they’re being scared off by the new geese), where they often fight over leftover French fries or Frito pie debris. Since OCU is located in the middle of the city, our resident bird population is somewhat lacking in variety and in rarity. Perhaps our new geese will attract a more chic crowd to the quad?
By discussing both squirrels and birds, we have covered the main animals to be found at OCU. But other universities across the country have a more wild animal population. Many universities located in more rural areas are home to deer and other wild grazing animals. In 2012, a black bear was found wandering the campus of the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Many rural campuses also find themselves keepers of raccoons and opossums, who are attracted by the myriad food opportunities that sloppy students provide. Some animal residents are more worrisome than others: on the swampy campuses of Florida, for example, some of the campus lakes and ponds are home to alligators and snakes. We are unlikely to see a snapping reptile in the Ann Lacy fountain.
Other universities have had issues with animals on campus, though the problems were of their own creation. Many universities choose to have live representations of their mascots. PETA posted a scathing article on schools with live mascots: “Mike the Tiger at Louisiana State University, the bears at Baylor University, the jaguar at Southern University, TOM II at the University of Memphis, lions Leo and Una at the University of North Alabama, and the many tiger cubs used by Massillon High School in Ohio–aren’t allowed to do any [natural] things.” The article also noted that keeping wild animals on campuses harms the animals, and puts students and staff at risk of being hurt by a confused animal.
Most students at OCU will have never considered keeping a big cat. But what of those of the domestic variety? OCU’s pet policy states that “Oklahoma City University prohibits all persons, including faculty, staff, students, contractors, visitors, and volunteers, from having pets on campus.” The only exception to this rule are service animals, approved therapy dogs from registered programs, pets belonging to permanent campus residents, and pets of those living in University Manor Apartments. But other campuses are not so strict.
Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, was one of the first college campuses to allow all types of pets in specific dorms. Some other schools, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Duke University, allow cats in certain dorms. Many others allow fish, some caged pets, and small aquatic animals. But for the most part, college campuses wish to keep their dorms pet-free.
This poses another question: how do students get their pet fix when pets aren’t allowed? Don’t attempt to pet the geese or squirrels. There are many opportunities for animal lovers in Oklahoma City. Take advantage of Student Life’s therapy dog program, which brings trained therapy dogs to campus during stressful times for students to cuddle, pet, and play with.
Off-campus, volunteering at a local animal shelter can help to fill the pet-shaped hole in your life. The OKC Humane Society main office is located near campus, at 7500 N Western Ave, and is always looking for volunteers. Check out their website for more opportunities.