When it comes to sports mascots, tigers, lions and bears might seem like the best choices. Strong and ferocious, they strike fear into the hearts of opponents. But some plucky organizations celebrate the lowly squirrel – and not just the bushy-tailed tree dweller we’re familiar with, but other members of the Sciuridae family. It isn’t just sports teams, either. Here are some groups that channel their inner squirrel. To vote for your favorite, scroll to the bottom.
Albino squirrel, Oberlin College
Oberlin is the latest college to adopt a squirrel as its mascot. The Ohio liberal arts school is known for the albino squirrels that frequent Tappen Square. The admissions office passes out squirrel-bedecked stickers and squirrel-shaped stress-relieving balls to incoming freshman. Earlier this year designer Jim Ward unveiled the snarling visage, just one of many college mascots he’s designed or retooled.
Fun fact: Oberlin’s squirrel joins the Yeoman, which is the college’s official mascot.
Nutzy the Flying Squirrel, Richmond Flying Squirrels
The Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants baseball organization has been known as the Flying Squirrels since the team moved to Richmond for the 2010 season. The mascot is known as Nutzy, who makes more than 400 appearances a year. His winged, squirrely visage has appeared on caps, bobbleheads, garden gnomes and even a nutcracker.
In true minor league baseball fashion, the flying squirrel motif even inspired a “Will It Fly” Night, in which various objects — including a watermelon, a sheet cake and some meatballs — were dropped to the field from a hovering helicopter to see if they would fly like a flying squirrel. Fun fact: Every October the ballpark hosts Squirreloween.
Chopper the Groundhog, Gwinnett Braves
As you know, groundhogs are members of the squirrel family, and this Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves has had a groundhog mascot since moving to Georgia from Richmond in 2008. Like any good minor league mascot, Chopper has a busy calendar of public events. Every Feb. 2, he appears with General Beauregard Lee, Atlanta’s answer to Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-forecasting groundhog. “Chopper’s there to show support to kind of hope that spring comes early,” said Gwinnett’s Shay Marlowe.
Fun fact: Chopper’s props include a drum and a baseball glove. He also appears to have a soul patch.
Gladys the Fighting Squirrel, Mary Baldwin College
A squirrel appears in the coat of arms of Mary Julia Baldwin, the namesake of this women’s college in Staunton, Va. “The squirrel is a symbol of industriousness, trustworthiness and preparation,” noted a college official, who added: “In Nordic mythology, the squirrel is a symbol of the soul.”
The mascot was chosen in the 1970s. She’s named Gladys the Fighting Squirrel, a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that came out of a staff meeting. (“I never thought it would be chosen, and when it was, I never thought it would be heard outside that room,” said the person who came up with it.) Fun fact: In 2012, Gladys the Fighting Squirrel came in at No. 3 in the Cheetos list of the country’s Top 25 Cheesiest Mascots.
The Black Squirrels, Haverford College
The Pennsylvania college’s athletes have been known as the Black Squirrels since the late 1980s, when members of the Haverford baseball team noticed a profusion of the melanistic critters around the field. “The diamondmen who came up with this thought the squirrels exemplified the feisty, idiosyncratic, never-say-die esprit de corps they sought for themselves,” said a school spokesman. Soon, like black squirrels spreading through the countryside, the name spread throughout the campus.
Fun fact: Said a school spokesman, “I can neither confirm nor deny rumors that Haverfordians are responsible for the presence of black squirrels on the campus of arch rival Swarthmore College.”
Fanny the Gray Squirrel, University of Stirling
The men’s and women’s water polo teams of this college in central Scotland rally under the banner of Fanny the Squirrel, the mascot whose likeness is sewn on their uniforms. The mascot was born after a former coach shouted, “Go out there and protect the ball, like a squirrel protecting its nuts!”
Ironically, the gray squirrel is considered an invasive species in the Britain, where it outcompetes the native red squirrel. “The more environmentally conscious individuals are, perhaps, not keen on the gray, compared to the red,” said a team spokesman. “But grays are so firmly established in more highly populated areas, nowadays, that most people are completely accepting towards them.” Fun fact: In Great Britain, “fanny” is slang for female genitalia. To recruit new players at the beginning of the year, team members pass out stickers featuring the slogan “I’ve seen Fanny.”
Marty the Marmot, Victoria Royals
The official mascot for this junior hockey team in western Canada is Marty the Marmot. Marmots are a member of the squirrel family. Marty is an endangered Vancouver marmot, one of the world’s 14 species, known for its chocolate brown fur and white patches on the nose, chin, forehead and chest. Marty was previously the mascot for the Salmon Kings hockey team, moving to the Royals when that team folded and he became a free agent.
Fun fact: According to the Marmot Recovery Foundation, “When alarmed, marmots give piercingly loud whistles, which earned them the nickname ‘Whistle Pig.’ Vancouver Island marmots have five distinct whistles or trills used for different purposes. That’s more than any other marmot species.”
The Chipmunks, Archbishop Chapelle High School
When this Catholic girls school was founded in 1962 in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, La., the first class chose the chipmunk as its mascot. “It makes a great statement about what we hope our students will be,” said former principal Beth Johnson. “Chipmunks are community animals. Their chatter can be heard from a distance. They prefer to keep their feet on the ground but can go out on a limb if the situation requires it.”
Archbishop Chapelle students are referred to as “Chipmunks” or “Chips.” School uniforms feature a tiny chipmunk embroidered on the collar. At games, a student dresses up in a chipmunk costume, complete with hair bow. Fun fact: The school once had a live chipmunk. When it died it was placed in a box in a freezer to await taxidermy. The nun making dinner that night opened it and almost had a heart attack.
Nutty the Squirrel, City of Menlo Park, California
In the fall of 2013 the Community Services Department of this city of 33,000 in Northern California adopted Nutty the Squirrel as its mascot. Menlo Park is known for its live oaks and other trees and it struck boosters that a squirrel might be a good symbol of the town, a reminder to “stay innovative, happy and environmentally affair,” according to a spokesperson. The name Nutty was chosen by Menlo Park’s children.
Fun fact: According to Nutty the Squirrel, “The pay is peanuts, literal peanuts, but I am so happy here with the people and the high quality of life.”