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Playing with squirrels for credit

January 21, 2009

Ever walked across campus and spotted a caged squirrel eating peanut butter? How about a CSU student putting a collar around a fat squirrel's neck? Not to worry! The squirrels are safe, kept well-fed and are important educational tools for Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology majors.

Campus critters dedicated to higher learning

The students enrolled in FW471 - Wildlife Data Collection and Analysis, taught by Associate Professor Paul Doherty, are receiving first-hand experience in handling, locating and analyzing species - in this case, squirrels.

Controlled lab ensures safety

Doherty says the students are usually excited to be so close with the wildlife; however, a very controlled protocol in their lab is constantly maintained when preparing the animals.


Students start their semester setting up special Havahart traps for our furry friends to wander into. Once captured, the squirrels are brought back to the lab, sedated, and adorned with a fashionable black radio collar that sends signals to a long, hand-held antenna and released back into the wilds of CSU.

Students track their squirrel throughout the semester. Using the information gathered, students analyze the survival patterns of squirrels. Only six to eight squirrels are tagged each semester.

How'd you get there?

"We have some funny squirrels. Some of them like to hang out at the student center and get fed donuts by the people there," says Doherty.   He recalls a time a squirrel got into the dumpster behind Avogadro's Number, a local restaurant, and the radio signal couldn't get out. Doherty called that squirrel a "dumpster diver."

Learn more about the Department of  Fish, Wildlife & Conservation Biology.

Contact: Anh Ha
Phone: (970) 491-4161