The Black Squirrels of Kent State University

Every time I step outside to walk through the Kent State University campus, I am on the lookout with my camera close by. In 1961 ten cages containing black squirrels from Ontario Park in London were brought to KSU. They were released on the campus and it became their home. The most unexpected thing was that the black squirrels could mate with the local gray squirrels and the black gene dominated which helped the population grow. The students and staff at the university took a liking to the cute black fur-balls right away and started the annual Black Squirrel Festival, the Black Squirrel Run, the Black Squirrel Radio and many more Black Squirrel Somethings.

Squirrel is the New Black – Since 1961 was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

Being new to such a cold climate caused me to walk around campus at a quick pace and looking down to keep as warm as possible. It wasn’t until Candace Bowen pointed out that there were squirrels all over the place that made me decide to look up at a tree that I was passing and I saw one right away. This resulted in almost 20 minutes of me chasing squirrels from tree to tree trying to take a nice picture. At -18 Celsius this was not a good idea, but it wasn’t until my fingers were too cold to press the buttons on my camera that I realized that I was actually freezing and ran inside.

I have always been an animal lover and since there are no squirrels in Prague, I haven’t really gotten to see many of them. Now every time I step outside to walk through the Kent State University campus, I am on the lookout with my camera close by. It is amazing how many squirrels there are here, and that most of them are black. What’s even more amazing is the story of how they got here.

Speaking to the Dean of Communications and Information, Stanley Wearden, this morning I was told that there were ten cages containing black squirrels from Ontario Park in London. This was back in 1961. They were released on the campus and it became their home. Larry Wooddell and Biff Staples, the superintendent of Kent State’s land and a tree expert are the men responsible for this wonderful phenomenon. When the first release proved a success they went back for more cages. The most unexpected thing was that the black squirrels could mate with the local gray squirrels and the black gene dominated which helped the population grow.

The students and staff at the university took a liking to the cute black fur-balls right away and started the annual Black Squirrel Festival, the Black Squirrel Run, the Black Squirrel Radio and many more Black Squirrel Somethings. Three years ago, the squirrels celebrated their 50th anniversary at Kent, and they continue to live and thrive on the school’s campus. Hard to believe that Woodall’s “Operation Black Squirrel” turned into such a success. Walking around campus today you will find actual squirrels in almost every tree and running around leaving tracks in the snow – but you will also find black squirrel toys and other tokens of them on the desks of the university staff and in other unsuspecting places. I guess I’m not the only one who’s squirrel-crazed.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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Squirrel is the New Black – Since 1961

Being new to such a cold climate caused me to walk around campus at a quick pace and looking down to keep as warm as possible. It wasn’t until Candace Bowen pointed out that there were squirrels all over the place that made me decide to look up at a tree that I was passing and I saw one right away. This resulted in almost 20 minutes of me chasing squirrels from tree to tree trying to take a nice picture. At -18 Celsius this was not a good idea, but it wasn’t until my fingers were too cold to press the buttons on my camera that I realized that I was actually freezing and ran inside.

I have always been an animal lover and since there are no squirrels in Prague, I haven’t really gotten to see many of them. Now every time I step outside to walk through the Kent State University campus, I am on the lookout with my camera close by. It is amazing how many squirrels there are here, and that most of them are black. What’s even more amazing is the story of how they got here.

Speaking to the Dean of Communications and Information, Stanley Wearden, this morning I was told that there were ten cages containing black squirrels from Ontario Park in London. This was back in 1961. They were released on the campus and it became their home. Larry Wooddell and Biff Staples, the superintendent of Kent State’s land and a tree expert are the men responsible for this wonderful phenomenon. When the first release proved a success they went back for more cages. The most unexpected thing was that the black squirrels could mate with the local gray squirrels and the black gene dominated which helped the population grow.

The students and staff at the university took a liking to the cute black fur-balls right away and started the annual Black Squirrel Festival, the Black Squirrel Run, the Black Squirrel Radio and many more Black Squirrel Somethings. Three years ago, the squirrels celebrated their 50th anniversary in Kent, and they continue to live and thrive on the schools campus. Hard to believe that Wooddell’s “Operation Black Squirrel” turned into such a success. Walking around campus today you will find actual squirrels in almost every tree and running around leaving tracks in the snow – but you will also find black squirrel toys and other tokens of them on the desks of the university staff and in other unsuspecting places. I guess I’m not the only one who’s squirrel-crazed.

Are We There Yet? Prague – Ohio Delay

No one from our group of twelve had problems at any airport security checkpoints or got even close to being sent back to Prague on our long journey to Cleveland through London and Chicago. This was especially surprising seeing our diverse nationalities, religions, frustrating visa requirements or the confusing nature of our university trip that required a tourist visa rather than a student one. Many of us were sweating bullets over the possibility of having problems with our transit visa in London and about the intimidating officers at the U.S. passport control. Ironically enough, those were only parts of the entire journey that actually went through as planned.

Seeing Home Dried My Tears was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.

No one from our group of twelve had problems at any airport security checkpoints or got even close to being sent back to Prague on our long journey to Cleveland through London and Chicago. This was especially surprising seeing our diverse nationalities, religions, frustrating visa requirements or the confusing nature of our university trip that required a tourist visa rather than a student one. Many of us were sweating bullets over the possibility of having problems with our transit visa in London and about the intimidating officers at the U.S. passport control. Ironically enough, those were only parts of the entire journey that actually went through as planned.

Everyone arrived at the Vaclav Havel Airport in Prague on time and with as great an attitude as one could muster at 6:30 in the morning. No one forgot their passport, had an overweight bag or forgot to take their scissors out of their carry-ons. The flight itself was uneventful in a good way and they didn’t even check our transit visas at the passport control in Heathrow. The problems began as we sat by our gate waiting for boarding to start and our excited chatter was interrupted by a delay announcement due to technical problems. Half an hour of hopeful waiting turned into a four-hour delay during which our only compensation was a £5 food voucher. Unfortunately, airport food and £0.99 filtered coffee weren’t enough to prepare us for what was to come.

The flight from London to Chicago was long and traumatizing to some – including a very unhappy baby sitting near several unlucky members of our group. But the selection of movies and games in combination with the free beer and wine helped pass our time. However as much as the pilot tried to catch up on lost time, many passengers, us included, missed our connecting flights. Arriving in Chicago was chaotic as we were rushed towards passport control with our new boarding passes. There were no problems with our visas and not a single suitcase was left in Heathrow, but we weren’t all on the same flight to Cleveland. Half of us were scheduled to fly out on the first flight next morning instead of the last flight of the day.

Not wanting to split up the group, Bibiana and Iva used a combination of charm and (I assume) stern looks to persuade American Airlines to put us all on one flight. Since this was only possible for the 6:55AM flight we had to go out into the cold and squeeze into a small shuttle like cattle. The well-humored driver managed to make us all laugh at the silly situation and it wasn’t long until we reached our destination.

Westin was a pleasant surprise as the hotel was very nice and the beds very comfortable. We had to rush to dinner to get our $35 worth of food and drink. Steak was the most popular option at my table and we enjoyed our first proper meal in the U.S. while discussing politics, journalism and our life stories. After agreeing on a 4:45AM meeting time the following morning we went back to our rooms. After almost 17 hours of travel it was a relief that my last concern of the day was how to arrange the 6 pillows on my bed to get the best nights’ sleep.

Sleeping in a nice big bed and the promise of a short flight to Cleveland had us all in a good mood for our last bit of travel. Everything went smoothly at the airport and we got a chance to discover a bit of American culture while observing a young man wearing blue pajama pants tucked into his boots. His baggy green shirt attracted even more attention as he walked through security unaware that he was our first example of what we were warned about – the overly-casual dressed American. Before arriving at our gate I had also discovered that there are stores dedicated primarily to selling popcorn and that you could buy sim cards in pharmacies.

Our last flight was on the smallest plane that most of us had ever seen. My dilemma at take off and landing was whether to look left or right from my seat 10B which was an equal distance from both windows: the plane only had 3 seats in each row. After a short 45 minute flight we were finally in Cleveland surrounded by advertisements for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We had to rush to get our bags from taking another spin around the conveyor belt and were greeted by Candace Bowen. An hour later we finally arrived in Kent State Hotel, only 13 hours after our expected arrival. We were still excited about the last and best surprise of our long journey. Candace must have gotten a kick out of our reaction to seeing our ride from the airport – a large white limo that seemed bigger and much sturdier than the plane that we had just gotten off of.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.