Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Mad scientist creates nine-part obstacle course to test the mettle of his backyard's squirrels

A squirrel celebrates defeating the first few steps of Rober’s obstacle course.
A squirrel celebrates defeating the first few steps of Rober’s obstacle course.
Screenshot: Mark Rober

Mark Rober is a former NASA scientist who has now decided to apply his skills to more earthly problems, like the fact that squirrels keep trying to eat all the bird seed out of the feeders in his backyard. In an attempt to defeat the furry bandits, he created an intricate rodent obstacle course last year... which the squirrels quickly overcame. Now, having spent more time studying his adversaries, Rober’s returned with a new, even more elaborate maze.

In a video showing his absurd creation, Rober says, “I never thought I’d be that crazy guy in the neighborhood obsessing over the squirrels, but they started it first when they would constantly pillage the bird seed from any bird feeder I would put up.” After two months spent building a course designed “to test [the squirrels’] mental limits and their physical limits,” Rober was finally able to test out his ridiculously complex construction.


At the center of his labyrinth, this modern day Daedalus set a locked container of walnuts—titled, naturally, “Fort Knuts”—just below the birds’ favorite feeder in the middle of his yard. To get to it, though, the squirrels must navigate a wooden casino staffed by a pop-up security doll, a spinning horizontal pole, a little helicopter on a zip line, a wall made of bricks that randomly move in and out of a flat surface, a confusing series of ducts, a fake laser grid, and eventually the vault of Fort Knuts itself. All of these obstacles are themed around Mission: Impossible and Ocean’s Eleven because Rober has a good sense of humor. And they all come with emergency exits in case a squirrel gets trapped because the Squirrel War hasn’t yet managed to strip him of his humanity.

That last point is important because, after spending so, so much time constructing his obstacle course, we get to actually see footage of the squirrels navigating—and ultimately triumphing over—what turns out to be a very lovingly designed squirrel playground. All of his work for naught, Rober must now return to the drawing board yet again.

A side effect of all of this is that Rober’s also inadvertently created the world’s top rodent training grounds. Before long, we imagine that his squirrels will become elite athletes, able to bypass any human-made barrier with ease and capable of sharing their newfound talents with rodents from across the world. Once we have supersquirrels chittering and scampering around the globe, well, there won’t be any kind of obstacle course capable of solving that problem.

[via Digg]

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.