Have you noticed the squirrels around campus? Of course you have—they’re everywhere. On no fewer than three distinct occasions I have been walking along, minding my own business, when I walk past a metal trashcan on campus and a cat-sized squirrel rockets out to the lip and stares me down. I mean really looking deep into my soul. 

And then if they could, I imagine they would say—in what would be a heavy brogue—a few choice words about going away. I don’t know if this has happened to you, but just wait. 
I’ve no problem with these bushy-tailed, glorified rats. They’re fine, good company really. 
Seeing them scurrying around and scampering up trees can be delightful. If you’ve ever watched two of them make squirrel noises at each other, squealing like deranged toddlers, you know it can verge on comical.

Once on the way to dinner at Thorne Hall, I saw one by Baxter House eating an ice cream cone. The little tyke probably thought it was a person. Naturally, I stopped and took a few photos with my phone. 

There’s proof if you don’t believe me. 

Numerous opportunities present themselves for one to take photos of squirrels. A friend of mine has recently started doing just that: squirrel on tree, squirrel with nut, squirrel looking inquisitively. All great photos. 

When squirrels sit still and obligingly hold acorns up to their faces, they are great subjects for a few snaps of the old camera. I would like to imagine my friend has to put on camouflage and sit in bushes all day waiting for a squirrel to wander by or strike an endearing pose. This is not the case. 

If I learned anything in high school biology class, it’s that with abundant resources and a dearth of predators, populations explode. In our case, we have an explosion of squirrels. 

They certainly have few—if any—predators and lots of food in trashcans and plenty of nuts to bury. 

But as annoying and surprising as they can sometimes be, squirrels are still pleasant to have around. I think my friend has the right idea; photography is a good way to relate to them. 

 In her essay “In Plato’s Cave,” Susan Sontag talks about the distance photographing things requires. In order to get the shot, the photographer can’t step out from behind the camera. 
Capturing the subject requires an essential nonintervention. If I may reappropriate this distance, it’s a useful guideline for interacting with the squirrels. You give them their space and they don’t jump on your head. It’s a good balance.

It’s interesting to note the language here. Capture, shoot, load and reload cameras. 
Sontag points this out as well—the language surrounding photography is made of gun-related metaphors. 

People no longer go on safaris to kill the animals—they now shoot them on film, capturing them in a thin slice of time to later show off to friends. 

Of course, I wouldn’t advocate any pith-helmeted Quad safaris. Don’t hurt any squirrels. But do feel free to go out and try your arm at photographically shooting as many squirrels as you like. 

It’s open season. Just don’t forget to mount your digital trophies on your Facebook wall for all to see.