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Several squirrels in the "Squirrels on Locust" installation were stolen over the weekend.

Many students may not have had time to notice the appearance of ceramic squirrels along Locust Walk over the past few days since several of them have been disappearing.

The project, called "Squirrels on Locust," is coordinated by the Penn Art Club and is the first large-scale student-initiated art installation on campus. Each squirrel was decorated by a different student group.

But unfortunately, no sooner had the squirrels been placed along Locust Walk just after midnight on Friday morning, than several of them - the squirrels decorated by Wharton Council, the Graduate Student Center and the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education - started to disappear.

"We were pretty upset when we noticed this," said College junior Ingrid Lindquist, who, as president of Penn Art Club, is heavily involved in the project. "These models represent a lot of work by a lot of people, and it's a shame that people haven't shown more respect for that."

Although all the stolen squirrels have since been returned, one was significantly damaged and is in the process of being repaired.

A College freshman, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of repercussion, admitted to stealing one of the squirrels while he was drunk on Saturday night.

"I thought they were interesting-looking and that it would be cool to have one in my room," he said.

Although the squirrels were chained to the ground, the freshman managed to wrench one free.

However, he soon realized he would not be able to get it into the Quad easily, so he dumped it on Hamilton Walk.

"I do feel bad for the people who made the squirrels," he said, "but at the time I didn't think about how much they may cost, and anyway it wasn't my intention to destroy them."

Although clearly frustrated, Lindquist has stayed calm in the face of the squirrel theft.

"We always understood that this was a possibility," she said. "After all - that is what public art is all about."

She added that "in theory, people could steal the Button if they wanted."

The squirrels are the brainchild of Wharton senior John Agbaje, who, over the past seven months, has been working with a team of artists to model 30 squirrels from a single original.

"One of the motivating factors for me was for the squirrels to showcase the variety of cultures and personalities on campus," Agbaje said. "Sororities, scientific groups and political organizations are among the groups that have decorated a squirrel."

The Squirrels on Locust group is now ready with a new batch of squirrels, and the thefts have not set the project back.

The Division of Public Safety will remain vigilant against people vandalizing the squirrels, although Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said this is a student issue.

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