The Penn State Squirrel Whisperer
Squirrels drink water out of her hands. They sit on her lap and let her pet them. They don’t mind when she dresses them up in tiny hats. They respect her, just as she respects them. Mary Krupa, a 21-year-old from State College, has a way with animals.
She’s somewhat of a celebrity on Penn State’s campus. Passersby stop and stare as she throws peanuts up the trees on Old Main lawn, wondering if they’ll get to see her in action. If a squirrel decides it's hungry, it’ll climb down tentatively and end up at Krupa’s feet.
“Here, squirrely,” she’ll say. “Have a peanut.”
Some squirrels, almost instinctively, will hesitate and retreat, but with Krupa’s patience, they return. Others act like an excited dog that’s seeing its owner after a long day. It bounds over fearlessly, knowing it’s going to be fed. From here, Krupa will hand over a shelled peanut to which the squirrel will willingly accept. As it eats, she’ll slowly place a miniature article of clothing on it. It either doesn’t notice or it doesn’t care. She’ll snap a photo with her phone and upload it to her Facebook page, “Sneezy the Penn State Squirrel.”
This is her claim to fame. She’s been in newspapers, magazines and radio shows across the globe. “I just thought the page was cute and would make people happy,” she said.
This wasn’t the only reason she started this project, however. It began in 2012 after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case broke, shedding a negative light on the university. She wanted to create something positive to attach to Penn State that would remind people the school is more than football. Krupa said during that summer, the Sneezy Facebook page didn’t receive any negative comments.
Now, it has more than 40,000 likes and yields nearly two thousand likes per photo. She’s even been asked to air a show with Tosh.0, a popular show known for its sarcastic host Daniel Tosh (She declined, saying the show’s vulgar nature didn’t fit the Sneezy brand). “I never thought it would get this big,” Krupa said. “I think it’s cool we’re able to make people smile all over the world.”
Krupa will graduate from Penn State in December 2016 with a degree in English and wildlife sciences. She aspires to be a science writer, a career in which she can educate people about the planet and how they can make a difference in preserving the environment. She has a pet parakeet named Smudge, but she says she doesn’t have a favorite animal. “It’s whichever animal happens to be in front of me at the time,” she said.