Students mourn the FAC’s black squirrel

Roadkill has been the cause of death for a shocking number of squirrels this year.


A portrait of the black squirrel laid on the ground outside the Fine Arts Center. Pistachios were sprinkled around the drawing. (Photo: Alyx Peloquin)

AMHERST — Since the beginning of the semester, pedestrians passing by the North Pleasant Street entrance to the Fine Arts Center may have observed a black squirrel scurrying around. This past Sunday, however, 19-year-old Jack Crossley was taken aback when he found what he believed to be the same squirrel, brutally flattened against the pavement.

“I knew that we had to do something for this guy,” said Crossley, a freshman from Westford, Massachusetts. He organized a memorial service for the black squirrel on Tuesday after he realized how much the wild animal meant to members of the community.

“Everyone who has classes in the FAC would talk about the squirrel every now and then,” Crossley explained. “Just to see it go is kind of a shock, because no one expected it.”

The service took place underneath the FAC’s “piano,” which is the massive concrete awning on the south-facing side of the building. Competing with the industrial clamor of a bulldozer on the Isenberg construction site, a group of about 30 students gathered to share eulogies for the misfortunate squirrel.

Students gather at the Fine Arts Center to eulogize the fallen squirrel.

“I never really knew the squirrel; we saw each other from afar,” said Liam Archer in his eulogy. “Although we didn’t speak the same language, or share the same space, I feel we had a mutual understanding.”

After some initial remarks, one student played a somber rendition of “Taps” on his trumpet. Later on, Crossley led the group in singing “Amazing Grace.”

Roadkill has been the cause of death for a shocking number of squirrels this year, and people have noticed.

“There are far more young squirrels this year who don’t know really how roads work, so that’s why this year we’ve seen a large uptick in roadkill, especially squirrels,” said freshman Liam O’Keefe, who had already done some research on the gory phenomenon.

Farmers’ Almanac published a piece on Sept. 11 explaining that the increased growth of acorns and nuts last fall led to “a population explosion of squirrels (who have an average of 3-6 young in a litter).”

Sadly, an unusually high population of squirrels means a disturbing amount of roadkill. The Boston Globe reached out to a wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game who called the epidemic “Squirrel-nado.” Others have used a more technical term: “population irruption.”

“I’ve actually seen so much roadkill recently,” said freshman Evan Silverstein, who also offered a eulogy at the wake. “Just dead bodies, littering the streets.”

Many reports, including one from The Press Herald in Maine, stated that the squirrel death toll is probably highest in New Hampshire. The video below illustrates the gravity of the epidemic — it shows a highway littered with squirrel carcasses, and at the end of the video, a squirrel miraculously evades the videographer’s moving car.

Warning: Video contains explicit language.


The rising number of casualties among the squirrel populations of New England is naturally unsettling, and the black FAC squirrel’s wake was an opportunity for UMass students to reflect on the life of one squirrel who meant something to a lot of people.

“I like to think that in his last moments, he wasn’t filled with fear, but filled with the love from all of us who knew him,” said Archer.

A funeral is reportedly scheduled for 12 p.m. Wednesday near the entrance of Bezanson Recital Hall.

Email Liam O’Connor at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @LiamOConnnor.

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