“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads” Henry David Thoreau
The 60th anniversary of the black squirrel being introduced to the Kent State University campus will be celebrated in 2021. Maybe not celebrated by you or me, but those Kent Staters past and present will no doubt pay some bit of recognition to their unofficial mascot. In 1961, after six-months of intense negotiation with the Canadian government, a deal was struck and ten black squirrels were trapped in Ontario, Canada. Kent State groundskeeper Larry Wooddell, who initiated the acquisition, and his crony in this high-stakes adventure (not really high-stakes, just trying to make this a little more interesting!) “Biff” Staples hit the road and headed for Ontario to pick-up their precious cargo and deposit them on the university campus. By 1964 the local newspaper reported that as many as 150 black squirrels had taken up residence on the grounds. They were apparently happy at their new home.
I published an article on Kent’s black squirrels a few years ago. To get photos, I made arrangements to spend a night at my friend’s house who lives in Hartville, Ohio. She offered to drive me to Kent, where we could drive around campus and were sure to get some great black squirrel photos. We never saw one black squirrel within camera range. However, after I came home, guess what I spotted in my own backyard. Yes, a photogenic black squirrel, and we’ve been seeing them ever since. It seems they have found Ohio a pretty nice place to be. They have now spread to many, if not all the counties across the state.
While we often see them scampering through the woods, and bounding through the trees outback, where we see them the most is gnawing away on the old chicken coop. You can see below the lid of the nest box where they’ve been gnawing away too.
It seems there is something in the T-111 walls of the coop that they crave. Usually each morning, you can look out at the now uninhabited chicken coop and spot a fluffy-tailed squirrel noshing away on the siding.
The coop needs a lot of work before it returns to be an occupied chicken coop again so they can’t really do much harm and it gives the dogs something to do each morning by dashing out to the coop to chase the gnawty squirrels away!