Crasher Squirrel shot to fame a few years back when he photobombed an American couple visiting Banff. Not only did he leave the visitors with a unique record of their visit, he inadvertently started an internet meme of photobombing animals. Witness the popularity of Inconsiderate Horse, Bodyguard Cat, Wedding Llama and many, many more.
Unlike these Johnny-come-latelies, Crasher Squirrel reinvented himself as Banff Squirrel, with a little help from the folks at Banff Lake Louise Tourism and his handler Jeff Mitchell. Today, Banff Squirrel is the fuzzy face of Banff Lake Louise. As spokes-squirrel, he figures prominently in their online marketing and has his own Twitter Feed.
Recently I had the opportunity to chat with busy Banff Squirrel about his life of fame, fortune and romance.
Q: Your fame started by accident when you popped into the photo of a couple visiting the Banff area. How did it happen?
A: There was this adorable couple from Minnesota setting up a timer camera shot out at Lake Minnewanka. It was May, 2009. I had just finished a quick skinny dip (I am a naturalist, y’know) in the lake when I saw the camera. It was too late to duck, and thankfully the camera just captured my top half, but it blurred out the couple in the process. They sent the photo to National Geographic and it went viral after it was featured as a Nat Geo photo of the day. Another big part of the photo spreading was that people started putting my body on any sort of photo bombing scenario. I saw photos of me on the moon, on a giraffe – anywhere a squirrel shouldn’t be.
Q: How did you become spokes-squirrel for Banff Lake Louise Tourism?
A: After the photo was seen by a lot of folks, I found a nice nut basket with a note in it at Lake Minnewanka, inviting me to chat. I walked into the tourism offices with a large black bear and a surly wolverine. The negotiations were fairly quick. The wolverine marked out my new office area and we haven’t looked back. And it has been a great relationship – I had a wi-fi hotspot in the forest and they needed a twit, er, twitterer.
Q: How has life changed for you?
A: Well, I was a big hit at our elementary school reunion this year! Before the job I used to hibernate for like 8 months out of the year, but now I fit in that sleep by micro napping several hundred times a da..…whoa, where am I!? Other than that, I can keep my anonymity pretty easily. After all, we squirrels do look pretty much identical.
Q: Do your like your job?
A: Banff Lake Louise Tourism is very good to me, even though I once ate through a thick bundle of their fibre optic wires in the office (you’ve never seen an IT nerd cry so hard). The staff here even write their names on the food I take from the fridge – a nice touch, and it lets me know who can whip up the best salads. Quinoa is a thing? Who knew!? And the dental plan is amazing, which is terrific for a squirrel.
Q: What kind of squirrel are you?
A: I’m a proud Canadian Columbian Ground Squirrel. I have no roots that I know of in Colombia, but I do love arepas and ceviche, provided there is some maple syrup to douse them in. According to Ancestry.com I am also 1/16th Minnewanka lake trout. What can I say? The ’60s were a crazy time. It does explain my love of swimming – not a normal squirrel trait.
Q: What does a squirrel do for fun in Banff?
A: Where to start!? We have 6600 sq. kms of protected land in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1600 kms of trails, three world class ski resorts, a nice hot springs, campsites everywhere and over 100 great restaurants. And we have a thing here in the forest called Cheek Club. It’s like Fight Club, except instead of fighting we try to see how many things we can stuff in our cheeks, and everyone talks about it after. Lately I’ve gotten into stand-up paddle-boarding. Really works the abs.
Q: Have you met any famous people?
A: Yes! Through Twitter. I have lots of famous friends there, but my biggest ‘eek’ moment had to be when @MargaretAtwood, a national treasure of a wordsmith, tweeted me a personal poem. I almost fell out of my tree when I saw it. We also have this big charity ski event every winter filled with celebrities – the WaterKeeper Alliance, led by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Love seeing Alec Baldwin and other big stars. I met decathlete Bruce Jenner at one of these, and we had a good conversation about his amazing 1980 movie (and my favourite classic) Can’t Stop the Music. Newsweek called the movie the first all-singing, all-dancing horror film; the Dawn Of The Dead of the disco era. It co-stars the Village People. You really should see it.
Q: Is there a Mrs. Squirrel?
A: There is, but she doesn’t seem to know. Ms. Cherry Squirrel caught my eye, and my heart, one memorable day by the lake. I took her to the bridge at Lake Minnewanka that spans the Cascade River. It was where Marilyn Monroe kissed Robert Mitchum in the 1953 movie River Of No Return. I tried to re-create that moment, so we went there and I gave her a bunch of roses which she promptly ate. Haven’t seen her since.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: This time of year it’s forage, forage, forage. We do a lot of foraging. It gets to some of the animals. We call it Fore-Rage. Everyone, head down, stuffing seeds and pine cones into their cheeks. You bump heads, somebody is having a bad day, next thing you know there is a dust-up and hurt feelings. But I’m almost stocked up, so the rest of the time it’s skiing, skating, snowshoeing and at night I read bedtime stories to dormant grizzly bears (including some subliminal pro-squirrel messaging). It’s a great life!
Banff Squirrel is still ranked #1 in BuzzFeed’s list of the 35 Greatest Animal Photobombers Of All Time.