John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
“There have also been reported instances in which squirrels have jumped out of trees and attacked the victims.”
Picture strolling down the sidewalk when something hits your back like a hairy softball and starts furiously gnawing your flesh. That unsettling experience could be yours if you visit Novato, California, where eight people have been mauled by squirrels (or perhaps “squirrel”) in the past two-and-a-half weeks.
The Marin County government and Marin Humane Society are warning residents to be on the lookout for angry squirrels in Novato, a city about 25 miles north of San Francisco. “The attacks have sent several people to the hospital. Squirrel teeth are sharp!” emails Lisa Bloch, a humane-society spokeswoman.
This week, her organization put out a media alert full of astonishing rodent-rampage reports. It reads, in part:
The attacks are described as a squirrel suddenly running up to the victims, crawling up their bodies, and biting them in various areas (hands, legs, arms, head). There have also been reported instances in which squirrels have jumped out of trees and attacked the victims. …
While officials cannot say with certainty whether the attacks are all from the same squirrel, it is the most likely scenario. Officials suspect the squirrel was hand-raised and therefore lost its natural fear of humans. Residents should never feed wildlife. Intentional feeding or knowingly providing food to wild animals in Marin County is prohibited.
The attacks have all taken place in the vicinity of Sutro Avenue and Vineyard Road, which looks like a fine place for squirrels to mount ambushes:
The humane society says that rabies in squirrels is rare, but people who got bit are nevertheless receiving anti-rabies drugs “as a precaution.”