Today, Pacific University’s Forest Grove campus serves as shelter to an innumerable amount of western gray squirrels who make their homes among the tall oak trees and curious students. While current students are more than accustomed to the acorn loving, garbage pillaging and Starbucks obsessed squirrels on campus, it was not always this way.
The Forest Grove campus did not see its first squirrel resident until 1971. When ’72 alumnus Brian Douglass, also known as Dr. Squirrel, transferred to Pacific in 1970, he saw a slight issue with the campus atmosphere. He questioned how he could bring more excitement and joy to the picture perfect nature the Forest Grove campus provided. His answer, squirrels.
Though Douglass cannot recall whether it was his family’s friendly looking squirrel lawn ornament named “Chipper” or his general affinity for squirrels that inspired his idea back in 1971, he is sure of his initial intentions, to bring a fun ambiance to campus and smiles to students’ faces.
Douglass and a group of students, known as the “Squirrel Team,” began work by reaching out to faculty members, like then biology professor Dr. Albert Mazejko, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Oregon State University. And eventually received an approval for their project to release squirrels onto the Forest Grove campus.
After setting traps in an orchard near Forest Grove and catching six gray squirrels, the “Squirrel Team” reintroduced the furry creatures to their new home on Pacific’s campus. According to Douglass, the team never anticipated the overwhelming success of the squirrels on campus, in both breeding and bringing joy to the student body.
Douglass, who now resides in Bend, Ore., did not even realize the extent his once fun and thoughtful act had on the Forest Grove community until recently. After returning to campus last fall, he was pleasantly surprised to find the squirrels had reached small fame through social media sites.
“I’ve heard all kinds of stories from students on campus, just watching the squirrels and their antics,” Douglass said. “It’s entertainment. It’s better than Netflix.”
Douglass hopes to use the attention the lovable squirrels garner to give back to his alma mater. With hopes of starting a scholarship fund geared towards speech communications majors like himself, Douglass is working on creating a calendar and eventually a coffee
table book featuring the squirrels of Pacific.
He is still accepting story and photo submissions for the future publication. Submissions can be sent to email@example.com.