A week and a half ago, Abby Clark ’21 and a friend entered her room to find a squirrel perched on the inside of their windowsill. With some help from a Residential College Advisor, Clark and her roommate lured the squirrel out of the room.
“[The RCA] threw a piece of a granola bar out the window, and the squirrel followed, which was easy enough,” Clark wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian. “However, I later discovered that the squirrel had been in my room scavenging through my food for a while before we came back, so I ended up finding cracker crumbs around the room and opened packets of things, which is highly unfortunate.”
Incidents such as this one prompted a response from Housing and Real Estate Services. On Monday, April 8, Housing Regional Engagement Specialist Dennis Daly emailed students in Rockefeller College to alert the student body of frequent visits from “unwanted animal visitors.”
“Over the past couple of weeks we have noticed an increase in the reports of unwanted animal visitors in dorm rooms and common spaces,” Daly wrote in the email. “As the weather takes a turn for the warmer, we ask that you please remember to keep the screens in place after opening windows.”
Other members of the housing team emailed each residential college with similar messages.
For students such as Clark, the emails reminded them of a phenomenon with which they were all too familiar. These students have suffered the shock of squirrels, bats, and other animals entering their dorm rooms.
“I found it really funny to see that animals getting into rooms is a ubiquitous enough problem to warrant an email reminder like that,” wrote Clark. “However, I do wish I'd gotten that reminder sooner because I genuinely did not think squirrels tried to enter people's rooms like that — I assumed they were too afraid of people. Had I known, I certainly would have been more careful about keeping the screens down.”
Some students found even greater messes in their rooms. One such pair of roommates was Samantha Liu ’22 and Caroline Adkins ’22.
“Right before my plane back to school from Christmas break took off, I received a text message from my roommate, Sam Liu, saying that our room had been invaded by squirrels,” Adkins wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’ “Sam had walked into the room earlier that day to find a squirrel sitting in the middle of the room, eating some of her pistachios.”
Liu called the Department of Public Safety, and an officer helped her remove the squirrel. Adkins and Liu spent a full day cleaning and sanitizing with the continued concern that the incident would repeat itself.
“I was extremely upset at first,” Adkins wrote. “There were squirrel droppings everywhere (on my bed, in the radiator, on the floor, in my shower caddy), my bedding was completely shredded and was now sporting a lovely new urine stain, and, conveniently, it was the week before exams.”
Other students told Liu and Adkins that they might have forgotten to close their window screens prior to winter break. Adkins insists that the squirrel entrance was not a result of open window screens.
“At first, I assumed that maybe the window popped open (Wilson [College] dorms in general are not the nicest, and our stuff tends to fall apart),” she wrote. “But after seeing the damage those squirrels did, I honestly believe that they somehow managed to pry open the window, eat through the screen, and have a party in our room.”
To Adkins, the recent emails from the housing office may not address the full extent of the problem.
“I guess it is nice that they are trying to prevent more incidents from happening,” she wrote. “But these squirrels are absolutely nuts (no pun intended) and a screen is not going to stop them — especially the screens in Wilson buildings that easily slide to the side if you so much as blow on them.”
To some students unfamiliar with the recent slew of unwanted animal visitors, the email served as a source of humor.
“I for one have never had any animal visitors in my room, and my screen is in good condition, so I didn’t really think much of it,” said Isaac Hart ’22. “I thought it gave a good laugh at the end of a hard day.”
The University wants students to be aware of how to prevent the entrance of animal visitors and how to respond in dangerous situations.
“As the weather warms, we have seen more reports of animals such as squirrels and bats entering buildings. Keeping window screens in place is an important step to keep these animals outside where they belong,” Michael Hotchkiss, Deputy University Spokesperson, wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’ “If students do see an unwanted animal visitor inside their building, they should contact Facilities Customer Service at 609-258-8000. If you come into contact with a bat or are bitten or scratched by an animal, contact Public Safety at 608-258-1000.”