New York City is not known for hair-raising animal experiences – save for the odd pizza-loving rat – but one city neighborhood is being subjected to an unwelcome slice of the wild by being terrorized by a highly aggressive squirrel.
At least three people in Rego Park, in the borough of Queens, have been jumped upon and bitten by the possibly deranged squirrel in recent weeks. The tree-based rodent’s reign of terror has made some people in the area afraid to go outside without being armed with pepper spray or other anti-squirrel weaponry.
“A few people are quite scared,” Micheline Frederick, a local resident, told Guardian US. Frederick was herself targeted by the squirrel in a bloody attack on 21 December, when she was holding her front door open for furniture movers.
“Suddenly the squirrel ran up my leg and I thought ‘it’s a small rodent, how bad could this be’, so I stood completely still and they next thing I knew the blood started to fly. It was a wrestling match that got very bloody very quickly,” Frederick said.
Frederick’s lengthy solo struggle with the squirrel – the furniture movers fled inside her house to safety – was captured by her neighbor’s security camera. The footage shows blood on Frederick and nearby snow. Frederick suffered bites to her arms and hands, with her little finger badly gnawed on by the animal.
“I had my hand around its body and I could not get this thing off,” she said. “It was angry, vicious and incredibly strong.” She eventually shook it off, only for the squirrel to run up a tree and stare at her. Frederick had to seek medical treatment and has had a round of rabies shots in the unlikely event the squirrel was carrying the virus.
Several other neighbors have also been attacked, with Frederick having to scream a desperate warning to a woman who was chased down the street by the squirrel. “These squirrels are aggressively going after people,” resident Vinati Singh told WCBS.
It’s unclear what has prompted the highly unusual behavior from the squirrel, although the animals can act atypically if suffering from disease or overly used to being fed by people.
City officials said they had advised the hiring of a licensed trapper to apprehend the squirrel. “We are actively working with residents to get more information about the bite events and coordinating with the trapper,” said a spokesman for the New York City health department, who advised that anyone bitten should see a doctor.
Frederick said she hoped the problem would be dealt with properly and humanely but that she refused to live in fear of the squirrel. “I came out of the house with a shovel after the first few days but now I think ‘I have the vaccine, I’m wearing heavy gloves, bring it on,’” she said.