The skunk that sprayed Crothers: more peculiar ‘tails’ about Stanford animals

Oct. 10, 2022, 2:32 p.m.

Back in the spring, I wrote an article covering student testimonies of bizarre interactions with Stanford’s animal residents. In the following months, I connected with more members of Stanford’s community who had similarly peculiar tales to share.

In early 2019, Cooper de Nicola ’22 M.S. ’23 “saw a coyote run across Lomita Mall [and] into the trees around Terman Fountain.” This may sound mundane enough, but know that this coyote had just bolted out the doors of the Mechanical Engineering Research Lab. Later that year, de Nicola’s “roommate saw a hawk swoop down and pick up one of those massive hares.” 

“I had a long, steady relationship with the jackrabbits,” said Jake Chamberlain MFA ’19. As part of an assignment for his film studies, Chamberlain created a documentary about a family of campus rabbits at nighttime. While filming, a coyote started to chase the rabbits. Chamberlain, curious to see where the coyote was going, ended up chasing the coyote. 

When asked why he was not afraid that the coyote would not attack him, Chamberlain explained, “I know coyotes. I was attacked by an owl in Marin, though.” 

Out for a nighttime run, he felt something deal him a blow to the back of the head. Assuming it was a person, Chamberlain freaked out. “I turned around and it was an owl. It just perched on a tree and stared at me.” 

Chamberlain did not let these incidents ruffle his feathers. “It kind of helped me feel that I’m on the right track in life. God wants me to meet animals.”

Joaquin Garcia ’22 also recalled a startling encounter with these nocturnal birds-of-prey. As he made his way down Campus Drive one calm evening, he was shocked to see an owl swooping past with none other than a flailing squirrel in its talons. “I was so surprised. It just flew into a tree.” 

Evidently, it is not uncommon for birds to be seen exercising their predatory prerogatives.

During the 2019-20 school year, multiple Crothers residents complained of a chronic odor plaguing the dorm. Emails were sent out to the list-servs debating whether the fetid air was emitted by a skunk or an equally likely plant counterpart. One of the original emailers — that accused his dormmates of lighting up too often — conceded that the mammal was almost certainly the culprit. 

“Yeah, it became pretty obvious that it wasn’t weed after a while … not to mention the fact that the entire area around Crothers smelled like someone had taken eight years’ worth of skunk juice and sprayed it all over the place,” Kevin Duan ’21.

On the other hand, some third-floor residents who were more removed from the aromatic drama thought their dormmates might have been making a big deal since they couldn’t smell anything.

Screenshot of back-and-forth emails to the listserve for Crothers residents about the skunk smell. Reads:

Email 1:
"Subject: Re: [chat_crothers_201020] THE WEED SMELLS REALLY STRONG PLEASE STOP.
For what it's worth I actually saw a skunk outside of Crothers last night."
Email 2:
"(same subject) Normally they say weed smells kinda like skunk, but to whoever is smoking,
This stuff dead ass actually smells like skunk
I've encountered enough skunks and enough weeds to tell the difference but I can't even start to tell with this smell.
Please.
why you gotta do me like this i live on the ground floor it smells so bad."
Screenshot of back-and-forth emails to the list-serve for Crothers residents about the skunk smell.

Already traumatized by the time he stumbled upon amorous hares doing the hanky-panky, ​​Henry Liera ’22 reminisced about an incident with Stanford’s raccoons. While throwing out garbage at Mirrielees, Liera noticed the so-called trash bandits scrambling away. 

“A family of FAT raccoons were in the trash cans and they were coming out of the bin. The raccoons looked creepy as hell, but overall, I thought the incident was funny,” he said. So in true Gen-Z style, Liera whipped out his phone and captured video evidence. Eventually, Liera surrendered the Mirrielees dumpster to the raccoons and retreated to ZAP to throw away the garbage.

Two raccoons scurry up a garbage can.
Racoons in action. (Photo courtesy of Henry Liera.)

The dumpsters were also where Gwendolyn Liu ’25 observed a wacky incident with a furry critter. While her friend was holding the lid open, she was sifting through bags and looking for something the friend had accidentally thrown out. Suddenly, she was faced with a pair of cold, glowing eyes. A rat, reportedly looking very well-fed, scurried away. “My friend got scared and dropped the lid on me,” Liu said.

Perhaps these animals are as wary of us as we are of them. Jennifer Lugardo ’22 M.S. ’24 managed to scare off a stalking coyote. “I was walking back from visiting a friend in ZAP when I saw something that looked like a dog walking by in the distance.” She picked up the pace and the coyote followed suit. Lugardo expertly gave her pursuer enough stink eyes that “it just ran away from me.” 

“It was my first time seeing a coyote in person,” Lugardo shared.  

Wild animals have become an infamous yet beloved part of the quintessential Stanford experience and there is clearly no shortage of encounters on campus. These incidents may initially be terrifying or surprising. But when we consider that almost everyone has had some sort of experience, we feel a sense of unity, even if it is in a whimsical sort of way. After all, what would life be like on a Farm with no animals?

Contact Sarayu at smpai918 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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