Chapel isn’t the only place students can find wild creatures. Both “Towers Cat” and the chubby squirrels are staple figures of ORU culture. However, not many people know that before this land was ORU, it was a large farm, complete with a creek. Through the years, many animals simply adapted to life around the university and students.
“The neat deal is being here in the city, but still having so much wildlife here on campus,” said George Perkins, director of grounds and services. “You wouldn’t think you would have foxes, coyotes and all these other critters.”
While students frequently see geese and squirrels, other wildlife call the campus their home. In fact, Perkins has documented moles, bats, raccoons, beavers, foxes, blue herons, owls, rats and snapping turtles, to name a few.
“We are a little oasis in the city,” Perkins said. “We have a large chunk of land, and we’re fortunate to have the dominant water feature of Fred Creek.”
Even though it may be tempting to chase the geese or pet the cats, Perkins advises students to keep their distance.
“They [students] just need to stay away,” Perkins said. “I know a lot of people feed the cats. They’re feral cats and they need to treat them like wild animals so they don’t get hurt.”
Perkins said the cats benefit the school by cutting down on mice and rats. The fox population also aids rodent control.
“I really like the foxes,” Perkins said. “I was very mesmerized by them when I first saw them.”
Along with the cats and foxes, birds of prey help maintain the population of animals on campus. The squirrel population, as well as Canada Geese, has seen the impact of these birds.
“With the red tailed hawk, I’ve physically seen them catch little baby geese, ducks and squirrels,” Perkins said. “Nature has its own cycles of dealing with stuff.”
However, since federal law protects Canada Geese, students can receive heavy fines if they harm one.
“I’ve seen a lot of kids messing with the geese,” Perkins said. “They tease them and stuff. But if they ever got hurt and someone knew who it was, the federal government wouldn’t be too happy.”
The geese also pose a potential threat to humans. Perkins recalled a time when a Canada Goose attacked an employee by flying up on his back and scratching him.
Even though they remain on campus year-round, the goose population has decreased over the years.
“Some of it I attribute to the coyotes and the foxes,” Perkins said. “They were around when the little ones were hatching. They were easy for the predators to snag.”
The university does not remove any animals from campus that do not pose a threat to students. Instead, they take a hands-off approach. However, the presence of animals such as raccoons, skunks, possums and snakes require the university to take action.
“We killed a copperhead that was in the prayer tower last week,” Perkins said, “In the middle of the night, security was checking the building. They opened the elevator and it was sitting there.”
After the snake dropped down a crevice in the elevator, Perkins had to call two critter-control services to take care of the issue.
In addition to the diversity of animals on land, Lake Evelyn and Fred Creek contain a large number of fish and a heavy population of turtles. There is no university policy on fishing.
“This is private property, so I don’t think you would need to have a state fishing license to fish here,” Perkins said, “The bass that I’ve seen from the campus are a good size.”
Perch, bluegill and other species make up the fish population. Many water fowl can also be spotted in the creek or pond.
If students are interested in preserving the animal environment, they can join the Environmental Stewardship Club on campus.
“I love that people respect wildlife,” Perkins said. “This is a campus for you guys, but it’s also a habitat for the animals that they wouldn’t normally have in the city. They’re protected here. Everybody will enjoy them and respect them for being here.”