CANTON, Ohio (AP) - Squirrels that have taken on a minor celebrity status at a northeastern Ohio university have become a costly nuisance.
The squirrels at Malone University in Canton have multiple Twitter accounts with hundreds of followers, a lip-syncing band has been named after them, and viewers have watched videos of them posted on YouTube thousands of times.
But now Malone President David King is imploring students and staff at the private, liberal arts school to stop feeding the cute critters.
The squirrels have caused thousands of dollars of damage at the university, destroying everything from gutters to compressor control wires, Jim Palone, physical plant director at the university said.
Palone said the squirrels have gotten into buildings and chewed through Internet connection wires and fire alarm cables.
And they've even built nests in heating and cooling units, causing air-flow problems.
Most recently, Palone said they've begun damaging the cedar siding of a popular campus building.
"They found ways to chew the outside of that building and created openings and holes on the wood skin of the building (for nests)," Palone said. "They just tend to be very intrusive and quite damaging as they go about seeking shelter and food sources and everything else."
Palone said it's hard to quantify just how much money the university has spent to repair the damage caused by the squirrels, but that he would estimate the figure to be in the tens of thousands of dollars over the years.
The university hasn't yet resorted to trapping or using contraception to control the squirrel population over concerns about the students' love of the bushy-tailed tree-dwellers.
"Our control measures have been to do the best we can to (close) access to areas where we don't want them, and to discourage feeding by staff, faculty and students," Palone said. "And rooting for our hawk."