When I went to Alaska to take a class at the University of Alaska-Anchorage a few summers ago, the first thing I was told was to steer clear of the moose. Apparently, a few months prior to my arrival, someone had been stomped to death on campus by an angry moose mother defending her children. If there’s anything that makes me listen, it’s a death by stomping, and I was on orange-level alert for moose for my entire trip to the Last Frontier.

Adam Burns

One day, I was enjoying an ice cream sandwich on my way to class when I saw a moose obstructing my path. Naturally, I discarded the ice cream sandwich, hoping that the moose would choose the frozen treat over my flesh, and ran back to my dorm room as fast as I could. This occurred much to the delight of the other students and the moose, who were all having a good laugh at my out-of-state antics. Not only did my encounter with the moose scare me into taking the bus to class for the remainder of my stay, it also made me more aware of the wildlife that we have right here at the University of Michigan. Sure, we don’t have wild moose and bears running under the Engineering Arch, but where else can you get sprayed by a skunk on your way to Zingerman’s Deli? Nowhere, of course! Only those in the Ann Arbor vicinity can enjoy a walk to Zingerman’s.

This past summer, a couple of skunks moved into the garbage cans next door, which I thought was just great, since I hadn’t had foul smelling neighbors since I moved out of Markley Hall. I learned a lot of amazing information about skunks during their residence in the garbage cans, like how their black and white fur warns other animals to keep away.

But aside from squirrels, the most important lesson I learned by far, though, was that skunks are more likely to unleash their stench if you throw objects at them — such as Wiffleballs — a lesson I learned at least three times.

The most popular animal in Ann Arbor — and the one that would surely garner the interest of my friends from Alaska — is the wolverine. But because the only wolverines that are in Ann Arbor are stuffed and in cases, we are stuck with the squirrel.

The squirrels aren’t all that bad — they even have their own group on campus called the Squirrel Club, which was established to educate the community about the plight of the squirrels, and we all know that you haven’t officially made it at the University until a group has been established to educate the community about your plight.

Everyone says that the squirrels that live in Ann Arbor are the most unique squirrels they have ever come across. This is certainly true. Where else in the world are squirrels showered with free gifts like they are on the Diag? This works out not only for the squirrels, who get free food all winter instead of having to stockpile supplies like normal squirrels, but also for overzealous members of student groups, who finally have someone that can take their candy without the guilt of pretending they will attend it’s cultural show.

Things don’t always go the free candy way on the Diag for the squirrels, though. One time when I was walking to Mason Hall, I watched a squirrel pause to open a candy wrapper, which was just long enough for a hawk to swoop down and plunge his talons into the squirrel’s belly full of Snickers. While I was both shocked and impressed to see the food chain at work, the greater lesson was not lost on me: never accept anything from people in the Diag, or a hawk will swoop down from its perch and impale you.

Even though the moose was frightening and I witnessed a hawk kill, neither is as terrifying as the most terrifying animal I have ever encountered on a college campus: the crow. I began hating and fearing crows when all 500,000 started to congregate at a location near wherever I was at any given time. Not only would I then have to navigate between the white puddles of crow crap on the ground, I also had to avoid getting hit in the head with one such puddle. It was like living through the Battle of Britain and trying to steer clear of Luftwaffe bombs.

Not only do you have to look out for their waste, you have to steer clear of their carcasses, since they carry that darn West Nile virus. I learned quickly that groups of crows are called murders for a reason.

While crows may try to defecate on my head and spread disease into my body, I suppose I have to be a bit lenient with them. At least they’re not trying to give me anything on the Diag.


Adam would like to reiterate that he is an animal lover and is planning a trip to the Detroit Zoo soon. If you’d like to join him, he can be reached at burnsaj@umich.edu.


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