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September 23, 1979 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-09-23
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Page 4-Sunday, September 23, 1979-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily-Sunday, Septemb

Goin' nuts: Ann Arborsquirrels speak o

By Maynard Slezgo

" EVER ARE PEOPLE so tall as when
they stoop to feed a sauirrel."
Ambrose Fleming is proud of that
motto, which graces the doorway of his
tree o ndominium near the East Engineering
building. It took Fleming two years to chew each
letter into the bark with his own pointy teeth.
"A lot of squirrels these days think we older
squirrels sell out when we accept hand-outs from
students on the Diag. It's just not true," explains
Fleming, beating his tiny forpaws on the ground.
"We entertain the students by being cute and furry,
and they pay us with food. It's simply a question of
free enterprise. It's been going on for years, and
now we are a stronger species than ever."
The statistics bear out Fleming's words. More
than 400 of the brown and gray rodents are expected
to inhabit the Diag this fall. Scurrying over
sidewalks, scampering down trees, dodging cars on.
E. University Ave., squirrels are as important a
part of Ann Arbor lore as Shakey Jake and his
famous rasp. And yet, who are the squirrels, these
funny, furry freeloaders who would take a walnut
right from your hand, and maybe your index finger
with it? And what, exactly, do they want?
"Housing and education, that's what," snaps
Dorothy Jakuboski, leader of the Squirrels Unite
Now (SUN). "Sure, they talk about walnuts and
acorns, but they won't let us into the libraries. They
say we'll chew up the books and leave droppings in
the carrels, but is that so much different than what
humans do?"
Ann Arbor's squirrel population has swelled along
with increasing student numbers during the past 15
years. Growth has been slow but steady, and has put
the Diag housing market on the endangered species
list. Most Diag trees house 20 squirrels per year,
with a turnover rate that would make any landlord
shudder. Moreover, the trees must be shared with
birds-nearby nests lower property values by an
estimated 20 per cent-and bugs.
"The housing is atrocious on the Diag," com-
plains Jakuboski. "While the Diag is near the student
and restaurant garbage bins, it's a ghetto-the
Squirrel Ghetto. The older squirrels are established
on the top limbs, but we younger ones have to suffer
next to those birds." Many younger squirrels,
however, claim they neither need nor want human
assistance, and that conservative elders such as
Fleming would be better off as "jelly beneath
someone's radials."'

are terrorist squirrels, including Lance
Frye and a de-tailed radical who would
be identified only as Frank. "Homo
sapiens are morons," Frank states flatly. "Espe-
cially first year students. They never realize they're
taking their lives into their hands when they offer
one of us food." He pulls back his, whiskers and
bares his shiny incisors. "These babies will liberate
us," he seethes, clacking his teeth rapidly up and
"My plan is to steal one of those frisbees someday
and take it up to a tree and tear it to shreds," Frye
boasts. "That'll get those humans-and their little
dogs, too!"
Squirrels complain that their cancer rate has
skyrocketed since they started accepting hand-outs
of white bread, Fritos, and Jujubes. But hunger is
an oppression not easily reckoned with,. and the
majority of squirrels will eat whatever they can
"Oh, yes, we eat hand-outs," says Hedda Buttrey,
a delicate mother of 30 who describes herself as
"remarkably normal." She adds, "We'll take a few
In his spare time, Maynard Slezgo enjoys
climbing up trees and acting like a nut.

Photos by
Jim Kruz and
Paul Engstrom

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