A Squirrelly Story

In February Illinois Tech Public Safety captured an elusive criminal: Squirrel Boss, a ceramic lawn ornament that was detained for trespassing, but would be released “for good behavior” to the owner of the @iit.squirrel Instagram account, a channel that has exploded in popularity on campus and has led to the creation of a popular student organization.

When Leah English (PHYS/ASPY 2nd Year) needed a release from her first-year studies, she strolled campus with a mission: to find and photograph friendly critters on Mies Campus. She posted fun photos of squirrels on social media, but only if they were on Illinois Tech grounds. “My favorites are when they’re eating food,” English says.

English’s Instagram account, created less than a year ago, caught students’ attention—far more than she had imagined. More than 700 followers send or post their own squirrelly candid captures. The account garnered so much community attention that English decided to create a student organization, Squirrel Club, in April.

The email list is now 150 members strong, and the club has built a friendly community of participants that English never imagined would happen. She thinks it’s a way for people to escape the urban bustle of a major metropolis, if only for a few minutes. “There’s a lot of nature on campus for being in the middle of Chicago,” English says.

A ceramic squirrel, a gift from her grandmother’s yard sale shopping spree, became a hide-and-seek hunt for her followers as students found the squirrel, snapped a picture for the account, and hid it elsewhere on campus for others to find.

It made its way to the 19th floor of Michael Paul Galvin Tower, where Public Safety grabbed the lawn ornament. The squirrel disappeared over the summer, so a replacement squirrel will soon be purchased. English also plans to have Squirrel Club activities and outings in the spring after she gets used to running the organization.