Save Our Black Squirrels group scurrying to rescue rare breed

Declining numbers of black squirrels in the Central New York region have inspired one student group to take action in order to stop the extinction.

Otto may be alive and well, but Syracuse University’s unofficial mascot is headed for the endangered list.

The all-too-familiar black squirrels commonly seen scurrying throughout campus are at risk of vanishing because of environmental threats from groundhogs, litter and their gray squirrel cousins.

In order to conserve these critters for the future generations of SU students to enjoy, a partnership has formed. SUNY-Environmental Science and Forestry and SU students have united in a community dedicated to preserving the majesty of the black squirrel — Save Our Black Squirrels, or better known as SOBS.

See an interactive map of endangered habitats deemed black squirrel danger zones.

SUNY-ESF professor James A. Corn has studied the habits of the squirrely creatures. From red to gray to flying, he knows the nuts and bolts of their habits.

"Black squirrels are able to retain more heat than gray squirrels, which makes Syracuse, NY, the perfect habitat for them," Acorn said. "However, this habitat is being made unlivable by some members of the city's community.”

With geographical obstructions in Syracuse areas like Walnut Park, Onondaga Lake and Boom Boom Mex, Acorn explained the squirrels' living threats. For example, the squirrels worship the radioactive pollution from Onondaga Lake, but the resulting brain mutations have actually caused civil wars.

The SOBS group is working to designate a protected zone on SU’s campus where all black squirrels that choose to can live in peace without fear of the imminent threats. Two campus sites have been proposed as black squirrel reservations, restricting human visitors to concrete sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays:


  • The grassy slope northwest of the Hall of Languages between the Maxwell and Newhouse schools
  • All lawn sections of the Quad
  • Every tree on SUNY ESF's campus
  • "They need their space," SOBS president Kevin Billsman said. "Students need to understand that without these black squirrels, the campus grounds will overrun with excess nuts. We have to break the shell of the conversation."

    The students have proposed that campus maintenance workers stake out the groundhogs and install an underground infrared system that monitors new activity of animals lying in wait to attack the squirrels.

    “This kind of technology is cutting edge," SU groundskeeper Bob Herb said. "We used to put on bush suits and monitor with night vision goggles, but too many men lost toes in the deep freeze seasons. Our workers couldn't stand on two feet let alone serve and protect."

    SOBS also asked that students stop littering around SU and SUNY-ESF campus since evidence has shown black squirrels choke on nutty trail mix wrappers. The group will raise money to breed and graft special trees that are suited just for the black squirrel. This will allow them to nest in safety.

    The group formed following the highly publicized SU General Body sit-ins this past fall. A few members weren’t satisfied with the attention that their animal right’s requests received so they formed their own group and reached out to conservationists at ESF.

    “People don’t really understand the impact that losing these squirrels could have on the Syracuse ecosystem,” said SOBS member Jackie Goodman. “They nibble on invasive plants on campus that threaten to take over indigenous CNY species.”

    Goodman said SOBS’ efforts are critical because black squirrel populations already are disappearing across the United States. According to forest ranger reports at Clark Reservation State Park, rampant deforestation and pollution has driven the creatures from the grounds.  

    SOBS recently launched social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter and have started drafting a formal constitution in order to form an official, school-recognized organization. This would allow them to secure school funding for their projects.

    Those interested in joining SOBS should visit the group’s Facebook page or reach out on Twitter. Their next meeting happens Thursday, April 2, at 7 p.m. near the Hall of Languages big oak tree.

    Great April Fool's joke! You

    Great April Fool's joke! You had me - until the reference to Professor Acorn.

    I had to sign in just to say

    I had to sign in just to say "LOL"

    Post new comment

    * Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
    The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.