Senior-class officers acting out of benevolence for their fellow classmates organized a “comfort animal event” to help alleviate students’ stress about classwork and upcoming exams.
Comfort animals are trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other places where individuals are under high stress. In recent years, comfort animals have been introduced to university campuses to bring stress relief to students experiencing academic pressures.
Although cats, dogs, rabbits, and pot-bellied pigs generally serve as comfort animals, UW–Madison senior-class officers opted to try badgers.
“We thought it added an interesting touch of school spirit,” says event organizer Gloria Panske x’19. “We never meant for it to lead to so much bloodshed, chaos, and a mild dismemberment. I think we really were just fooled by how cuddly the badgers looked in the Craigslist pictures.”
Those badger images have since been removed from Craigslist, where senior-class officers found a small business purporting to be “first-rate hanlers [sic] of badgers and the rats we feed um [sic].” The Craigslist ad went on to offer “delivry [sic] of life [sic] badgers for grand openings, bachelor ed [sic] parties, and childrun [sic].” No business name was listed, says Panske, and adds that the rental fee for six badgers was $54.
Kensington Aberle x’17, vice deputy chair of the senior-class Student Well-being Committee, was surprised when a man identifying himself as “the Octopus” showed up with a blue, food-grade plastic drum labeled “bajers” [sic].
“I asked him how an animal could breathe in that type of container,” Aberle says. “He told me that it was just for hauling them ‘from van to venue.’ He said that the badgers would be released soon enough. At that time — I wasn’t sure why — I started to feel a profound sense of terror.”
Most firsthand accounts of the ensuing mayhem describe a lively crowd gathered on the first floor of the Helen C. White Library awaiting the arrival of the comfort badgers. As Aberle announced to the gathered crowd that the badgers would be ready to comfort them in five minutes, the Octopus opened the barrel.
“I heard the guy with the barrel shout, ‘Them’s not the right badgers,’ ” says sophomore Michael Sheflonski. “He dropped the lid, and it went rolling away. He chased after the lid and just kept saying, ‘No, no, no, no, no,’ over and over. I began to suspect that something wasn’t quite right.”
The first badger to emerge was met with oohs and ahhs. But those cries of affection turned to sounds of anguish as badger after badger emerged from the barrel and attacked the students who had come to be comforted.
“I thought that I should handle it like a bear attack and just stand still,” says senior Dallas Jackson x’19, who suffered significant injuries to her scalp in the ensuing attack. “All of a sudden there’s a badger on my head, and there’s this kid pointing and laughing. The badger didn’t seem to like being pointed at and took the kid’s finger off in one bite. It sounded like when you snap a carrot in half.”
That “kid” was eighth-year senior Jeremy Williams.
“I never thought I’d become the victim of a mild dismemberment at the hands — or teeth — of a badger,” says Williams. “I’ve always liked badgers. I have them on some of my favorite shirts. These animals are actually really mean. They should put a warning label on those shirts.”
At some point during the attacks, the Octopus left the building and was not seen again. All efforts to contact him through Craigslist have been unsuccessful.
“I don’t believe there’s anything we could have done to prevent this incident,” says Bryce Wellington x’17, senior-class junior legal counsel. “These things just happen. Act of God. And, let’s all keep in mind that the worst thing that happened was a mild dismemberment.”
Williams, who will have to go through life with one fewer digit, has also taken an optimistic view about the incident.
“Since my comfort-badger encounter,” says Williams, “I haven’t spent a single minute worrying about my exams."
We hope you enjoy April Fools Day. On, Wisconsin!