Things that UC Berkeley squirrels do that would be awkward if you did them

Arya Aliabadi/File

Technically speaking, UC Berkeley is the home of the Bears. But let’s be honest, everyone knows that the real mascot here is our old friend Scurius niger — the adorably daring fox squirrel. Lovingly referred to by locals as “rats with fluffy tails” or “those monsters who stole my lunch again,” Cal’s own furry troupe of arboreal acrobats is universally beloved by anyone possessing a childlike sense of wonder, a phone equipped with Snapchat and an irrational desire to be mauled by a rodent over a leftover half-sandwich. In a last-ditch attempt to make one friend, just one friend — you guys, we’re so alone and it’s so cold — we at the Daily Clog took to the streets of Berkeley to test some squirrel-inspired meet-and-greet tactics in a human setting. What could possibly go wrong?

Our intrepid reporters began the day with some basic squirrel introductions on Sproul, namely, staring people down and slowly getting really, uncomfortably close to them, but then sprinting away as soon as they turned their head or seemed like they were going to interact with us. Our research sources, and by research sources we mean furry fanfiction pages on Deviantart, told us that this is the social equivalent of playing platonic hard-to-get and would definitely inspire interest in any potential friends. Our potential friends told us that this was “really fucking weird, man” and “please get away from me or I’m going to call UCPD.” So far, the experiment was going well.

Next up was forging a strong bond. Squirrels are social creatures — chittering, play-fighting and singing catchy holiday pop songs in groups of three are all common activities a community might engage in to become closer. Oh, wait, that last one is chipmunks. Never mind. Anyway, after crouching in the low branches of a tree for a while, we made the first move and bounded over to our new acquaintances, making sure on our way over to freeze in place periodically and, in some cases, manically dig into the ground for a few seconds, look around suspiciously and then act like nothing had just happened. The cellphone cameras poised in our targets’ hands told us that we were doing a great job at being adorable and that our likenesses would soon be plastered all over Snapchat, or at least the Berkeley Police Department’s wanted persons page. At least we’d be wanted by someone!

Here our reporters had a choice, and just like how each squirrel on campus has its own individual personality, ranging from slightly diabolical to downright bloodthirsty, each member of our team had their own squirrelly way of making friends. Some staffers, mirroring the picture of that squirrel lying on the bear statue on Yik Yak (you know the one), splayed themselves out on nearby benches or statues, showing off their easy-going nature and making everyone around them exceedingly uncomfortable. Others, looking for charming and memorable conversation, crept up to people quietly before shrieking like the devil’s own vocal cords were being ripped out of their throats and scraped down a chalkboard. Put more simply, they sounded like a squirrel.

But the most successful by far were the reporters who took the classic route — tackling people to the ground in an unstoppable fury of teeth and nails, grabbing whatever food they could out of their victim’s hands and running frantically for the trees, leaving the humans who thought they had made an adorable new friend sobbing in a heap on the ground, those fools. As in any good relationship, first encounters are pivotal. We’re sure that our friends will fondly remember this initial meeting for years to come, especially when they’re forced to relive it countless times in therapy and support groups.

By the time UCPD and Animal Control arrived to take us away, we had channeled enough of the squirrel’s natural charm into our social skills to make a whole mob of new friends. Or, if not friends, at least a bunch of people who were standing around watching us get arrested for acting like rabid tree rats in public. Oh god, we’re so alone. We’re so alone.

Contact Ariel Sauri at [email protected].