By: Mabel Myers
Photos and Captions // Ashley Rose, Photographer
We’ve all spied a curious and playful squirrel running around, or avoided a goose here on campus. These critters can most often be identified as the gray squirrel and the Canada goose. While it may seem fun and intriguing to get close to the squirrels, as they seem like adventurous little creatures, it is best to give them space, much like the geese.
“Essentially, observe from a distance. Geese, like other wildlife should not be approached when feeding, injured, or defending their young,” said Jessica Merkling, an urban wildlife biologist from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
It may sound like a great idea to share your snack with the friendly squirrel who came close to you while walking to class, but this can be harmful to their health.
“All wildlife, including squirrels, should never be fed or watered. While well intentioned, any wildlife that is fed has the potential to lose their fear of humans, becoming more aggressive to humans, or can spread disease, attract other undesirable species, and cause conflicts with either the same or different species,” Merkling said. “Further, often what we feed wildlife is harmful to them. There have been many studies about declines in wildlife health due to access to ‘human’ food.”
While the geese are easy to observe from a distance, situations may arise where they could become aggressive towards humans due to nesting.
“If you find yourself in a situation where geese are being aggressive, remain calm and don’t run (the vast majority of injuries related to geese are because people run from them and then trip and fall). Instead, make yourself appear large, throw small items like small stones or small sticks (never food), or rattle something like change in a jar to discourage them from coming too near. Bumping them back with an umbrella is also another option. If absolutely necessary, anyone always has the right to defend themselves,” Merkling said.
The best course of action with all animals on campus is to observe from a distance. They are very entertaining to watch when you have a moment. If you need to report aggressive geese, contact Facilities Management at (574)-520-4386. More information on the geese on campus can be found on https://www.in.gov/dnr/fish-and-wildlife/hunting-and-trapping/canada-geese-management/. If you would like more information on any creatures found on campus, contact Jessica Merkling at jmerkling@dnr.IN.gov.