Here’s a Squirrelly Idea! RIT Students Design and Build Houses for Furry Creatures

Nest houses to be donated to animal rehabilitators for reintroducing squirrels into the wild

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Squirrels are not always the most warmly welcomed creatures. Their persistent and pesky behavior can annoy humans and birds alike.

Rochester Institute of Technology students are hoping to sway public opinion of squirrels through a fun design project. More than 100 first-year students in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences are designing and building nest houses to help wildlife professionals in their efforts to rehabilitate and reintroduce squirrels into the wild.

“There is a classic saying in design: ‘Form follows function,’” says Amos Scully, assistant professor in RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. “If you attend to the functional needs, and embody their potential, your design will be born. These houses must serve a variety of needs, including an interior approximately the size of a squirrels’ nest and a door to keep the animals contained for their handlers. This a wonderful project for students since the end products are donated to a worthy cause.”

The 60 nest houses, all built of wood, will be donated to local wildlife rehabilitator Karlene Bonnes. Bonnes will distribute them among other rehabilitators in various counties across the region.

“We are very excited about this project,” says Bonnes. “Wildlife rehabilitators operate mainly on donations. These houses will be a huge help to us. Ultimately it’s our goal to release animals into the wild once they can survive on their own and these houses will allow the squirrels to gradually acclimate back into their environment.”

Adds Scully: “The aesthetics of the houses may lead people to be sympathetic to squirrels rather than indifferent. Growing up, my family had a huge array of birdfeeders in our yard and squirrels were the nemesis. I carried those feelings until I started working with the students on this project.”

MEDIA NOTE: Students will be presenting their final projects from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 4, and Tuesday, Feb. 5, in the James E. Booth Building, room 2530.