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Bucky’s Animal House: Surprise Specimens

We know that things at UW-Madison can get a little wild… sometimes we find animals in unexpected places.

Photo from UW-Archives of a student holding a bird in a library.

Badger Insider readers share their wildest stories

More on Bucky's Animal House

We know that things at UW-Madison can get a little wild… like horses-running-around-residence-halls-wild. From dairy cows on the agriculture campus to sewer-dwelling garbage bandits, campus is crawling, literally, with animal activity. For this issue, we asked readers to share their most memorable animal-interaction stories.

Dick Finke '53

Flagstaff, AZ

In the fall of 1948 when I was a freshman and my sister was a senior, a few thrill-seeking students raided the university cow barn and deposited cows on the front lawns and porches of the sorority houses and girls’ dorms. My sister was living at the Gamma Phi Beta house, on the third floor over the front porch. She heard the noise and investigated. She then thought it would be fun to wake her sisters up one at a time and take them to the front door to see their reactions.

The reactions were obviously varied, with, "Who's going to clean that up?" and, "How did they get here?" But the best statement came from one who said "Oh my gosh a HORSE!"

Abraham Mann ’53

Leonia, NJ

During the 1951-52 school year, a fellow Phi Ep Ave [Avram] Butensky ’55 and I worked at the UW primate lab, testing the learning capabilities of monkeys.

Without going into too much detail, the test, which involved hundreds of repetitions, determined how quickly a monkey — these were Rhesus monkeys if I remember correctly — could learn that it would get a reward of fruit or nuts by knocking a covering block of wood from a tray. The monkey had ten seconds to react before the tray was removed from the test cage and a new cycle would begin. At first the block would be moved by accident, but eventually the monkey would realize it could get the reward by pushing the block. A second stage of the test involved several blocks of different colors, the reward always to be found under the same color.

These tests, with hundred of repetitions, could become boring. But the monotony would be broken when, on occasion, a monkey would break free during the transfer process from permanent cage to test cage. Then the hunt would be on, with all hands chasing the monkey until it was cornered and returned to its cage. On even rarer occasions, a monkey would escape the lab through an open window, sometimes terrorizing a Madison neighborhood until it was captured by the police.

William Rauwerdink ’72

West Bloomfield, MI

For my last two years of my undergraduate life, I lived at [Psi] Chi House on Johnson Street (the building was recently destroyed), which was a medical student fraternity. Though not in med school, the house needed renters due to that being the era when frat houses were out of favor — which is another whole story — so that is how I wound up there. Oh, and I saved five dollars per month from my prior apartment, which was in another frat house. Anyway, the [Psi] Chi attic periodically was occupied by bats which made a very distinctive noise. Two brave med students would dress for battle in heavy-weight fighter costumes and go to the attic with tennis rackets to clear (likely kill) the bats from the attic. All would be happy. Silly recollection.

Robert Spurlock ’76

Phoenix, AZ

I've been lucky enough to observe many members of the North American animal kingdom over the years, but my sole opossum sighting took place in the loading area at Sellery Hall on move out day in 1973. As I came outside with my suitcases, I noticed a small knot of students looking under a car. When I joined them, I saw a small opossum that seemed to be as interested in us as we were in him. Eventually a house fellow suggested we scatter to give the little guy room, and he disappeared. This past summer I reunited with some dorm mates, and we wondered again how Mr. Possum got to Sellery hall, and where he went.

Paula Wagner Apfelbach ’83

Fitchburg, WI

I knew some guys who stole a horse from the agriculture campus and took it into a lakeshore dorm. The horse went up the stairs just fine, but then refused to go back down. Trouble ensued.

Sean Zuckerman MS’06, PhD '08

Lakewood, OH

My former roommate, John Fitzgibbon MS’10, and I had a garden-level apartment near Hoyt Park. One evening while I was working late in the lab, John called me. I immediately answered, as a call was unusual. He asked if I could bring home a box of gloves and a biohazard bag. Dumbfounded, I almost asked who he had killed before he blurted out there was a squirrel in the toilet. Since we each had our own bathrooms, he initially thought I had left him a "surprise," but was quickly persuaded otherwise when he realized the floater had fur and a tail. Thankfully the lid was down, otherwise our little furry visitor might have caused some serious damage inside our apartment while we were gone! The baby squirrel's swimming adventure did not end well, and we decided against stuffing him as a trophy.

We both regret that decision nearly ten years later, but at least we have the pictures to prove it! (The squirrel apparently entered through the sewer vent on the roof and fell straight down to the basement and only had the trap to swim through before emerging in our toilet.)

Surprised by the Syllabi

For the Spring 2016 issue, we’re wondering which UW-Madison courses threw you for a loop. Did you register for Nutrition Today as an easy way to fulfill a general-education requirement, only to find it was easily the hardest class you’d ever take? Or maybe it was Biochem 612: Prokaryotic Molecular Biology that made you realize, “You know, I’ve always wanted to be an English major.”

Let us know what was the most surprising class you took at the UW and why. Send your stories to, or share them with us on social media at @WisAlumni, using #Badger Insider.

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