Stanford students are a notable magnet for strange animal encounters. Everyone has or knows someone who has had an unbelievable run-in with the third kind, including Sierra Knudsen ’22.
Knudsen was a victim of Grand Theft Trail Mix in the fall of 2019. As a resident assistant (RA) in Muwekma-Tah-Ruk, she moved in early to her first-floor room for staff training. When she left for her staff retreat, she propped open the floor-to-ceiling windows.
When Knudsen returned, she noticed something was amiss. “It might have been like a few hours into being back, but I realized all of my food was, like, everywhere.”
Strewn all over her desk and the ground were snacks like peanuts, almonds and Reese’s Pieces.
“I was like, ‘Did someone come into my room? And this is a prank?’” Knudsen said. Eventually, she noticed a hole in the window’s mesh screen. “It was just so bizarre. I was really confused.” According to her, there was not even a “starter hole” for the creature to chew away at. “It was definitely a fresh hole,” Knudsen said.
Given Knudsen’s affinity for raccoons, she likes to “pretend that it was a raccoon that was just shacking up in my room for the weekend.” Unfortunately, she thinks the hole’s smaller size is more indicative of the intruder being a squirrel.
“I was just so upset too because, you know, nuts are kind of expensive,” she said.
Knudsen estimated there to be $50 worth of snacks that were lost or damaged.
I told Knudsen about an RA who had a raccoon break into his room. “I would have loved it if that had happened to me,” she said.
Courtesy of Sarayu Pai
Asa Mittal ’27 also had an animal steal his food, but during a childhood visit to Bengal, visiting a relative that lived on the outskirts of Kolkata.
According to Mittal, he was sitting outside eating a snack and “minding [his] own business.” Meanwhile, a peckish monkey must have crept up on him, because all of a sudden, he was a victim of Grand Theft Samosa.
As he chatted with someone, he was not paying attention to his snack. “I felt the samosa being snatched from my hand and I turned and saw this monkey running away with my samosa,” Mittal recounted.
Mittal was not really opposed to the whole ordeal although “it was slightly concerning that [the monkey] got so close to [him] and [he] had no clue.”
“I was six, so it was pretty cool to have an animal steal my food,” Mittal said.
Raccoons do seem to rule the roost at Stanford. A couple weeks ago, I was floored to see a pack of four chubby raccoons congregating near Mayfield Avenue in broad daylight. They seemed to be plotting something as they scurried around, their bushy tails swaying. Last January, I was retrieving my car from the Manzanita Garage when I saw a pair of raccoons also fiddling around the pavement. I should have minded my own business then, but instead, I started to record them, impressed by their healthy size.
All of a sudden, one screamed at the other and swatted the other with his paw. Needless to say, I wasn’t keen on being caught in the furry fray so I ran for my life.
The raccoons are not alone in their campus mischief. Kelsey Wang ’23 had an encounter last fall with an acrobatic squirrel that seemed to have been plucked straight out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. According to Wang, she was “peacefully biking through Main Quad” at approximately 2:13 PM, when, suddenly, a sizable “ashy brown” squirrel scampered into her path.
According to Wang, “the squirrel t-boned my front bike wheel, got entangled in the spokes for a good four seconds, and then finally escaped by jumping, I want to say, 6 feet in the air.”
With its short-lived career as an Olympic high jumper, the squirrel fled the scene apparently unscathed. Unfortunately, Wang most definitely did not.
Although the incident left her “terrified,” Wang wished nothing but the best for the squirrel’s wellbeing. “In the moment, all I could feel was shock … It was a feeling of pure surprise and confusion,” she said.
This series began in response to a pitch to understand why animals at Stanford seem larger than usual. I quickly learned that many students had some zany story to tell. Nowadays, very few people that I meet have been spared the question, “have you had a weird animal encounter?” It truly makes me happy to see that animal encounters have become a Stanford rite of passage.