BY JULIE GRAY
Emily Jones, a senior at Indiana University, is double majoring in music performance and journalism. However, she spends so much time observing the squirrels on the Bloomington campus that it could almost be considered a third major. Originally from Winnetka, Illinois, Jones met her first IU squirrel, who she named Sampson, in 2013.
Today, she shares photos and observations about Sampson and his kind with more than 8,000 people on Instagram at Squirrels of IU. Last fall, Jones acceded to popular demand and formed the Squirrels of IU Club.
Her stories include that of imperious Charlotte, who once pushed Chester off a branch when he came a’courting. And though she hesitates to reinforce stereotypes, Jones can’t help but feel female squirrels have an IQ edge—she’s seen sister Sammy trick her gullible brother Hugh by pretending to bury nuts. While he wastes time digging up the nonexistent nuts, Sammy buries the real ones.
Jones’ Instagram account also contains a squirrel family tree and a Google map that tracks the squirrels’ territories. She offers tips on how to recognize individual squirrels, noting that keen observation—from a respectful distance—is key. The Bloomington animal shelter, which receives, on average, one call a month about squirrel bites, reminds people not to feed or pet them. They are wild animals, after all.
Why devote so much time to squirrels? “I get asked that a lot,” Jones says. “They have the affection you associate with dogs and the independence you associate with cats. I’m blown away by their intelligence and by their ability to recognize me and build connections with me.”
Check out this slideshow featuring the Squirrels of IU. (Click on the photo below to view the gallery. Use the on-screen arrows or the arrows on your keyboard to navigate forward and backward.) COURTESY PHOTOS (unless marked otherwise)