Over the past few months, several Vassar students have made Instagram accounts dedicated to the skunks, deer and squirrels frequently spotted on campus. Each account follows the same format, posting student-submitted photos and videos (which, though often blurry, are indisputably adorable) of their respective animals. And though some of these accounts have proved nearly as popular as @vassar_memes in its heyday, less well known are their origin stories.
The original and most popular account is @skunksofvassar, which boasts 587 followers as of Oct. 12. The owners, who wish to remain anonymous, had been spending more time outdoors due to COVID-19 regulations, and they observed a marked increase in the number of skunks taking strolls around campus. “We took quite a liking to the skunks and had the idea to catalog our sightings on an Instagram account,” the owners said. “The rest is history.” Since their first post on Sept. 11, their influence has grown quickly, trailblazing what can now be called a verifiable Vassar Instagram trend.
“We never in a million years expected to start a woodland creature revolution on campus,” they said.
@deerofvassar, which has amassed 515 followers as of Oct. 12, was inspired by the Vassar community’s ability to interact with the nature around them. “This account is dedicated to celebrating the beauty of the deer on Vassar’s campus… I wanted to recognize that we are coexisting with them and unite all the students that appreciate the animals’ beauty,” the owner said.
@squirrelsofvassar’s owner believes that the circumstances of students’ return to campus have helped these accounts grow more quickly. “I think it makes sense that these types of accounts are popping up around campus this year because we’re all forced in a way to spend more time outside,” the owner said. “By sharing exciting moments in nature, we’re all learning to be more aware of our surroundings, which I think is a lovely byproduct of the times.”
The owner of the account was inspired by the other two, and began the account on Sept. 19 while procrastinating on an essay. “I became focused on squirrels in particular because I eat a lot of my meals on the lawn between Joss and Jewett, a notable hotspot of squirrel activity,” they said. “Also, I have really enjoyed watching the antics of New York squirrels because at my house on the West Coast we basically only have ground squirrels, which are much less lively.”
@squirrelsofvassar so far has the fewest followers of the three accounts, pulling in at a measly 303, but it is also the newest. “The slow growth rate in followers compared to the other animal accounts is a tad disheartening, but I have faith that squirrels will win over the hearts and Instagram feeds of Vassar students,” the owner said.
Each account has grand plans for the future. @deerofvassar plans to keep the account running until the owner’s graduation, at which point they plan to do a face reveal. @squirrelsofvassar hopes to collaborate with some other accounts, perhaps getting a skunk, deer and squirrel all in the same shot. @skunksatvassar hopes to continue inspiring intrepid nature photographers to document their work (the newest iteration of the trend is @grassofvassar). “We have so much love for every other student who joined the revolution to celebrate everything from deer to squirrels, and even grass!” the students who run @skunksofvassar said. “Thank you to everyone who helped us grow and who shows love to Vassar’s skunks!”