FROM HERE MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – An aggressive squirrel pounced on a 4-year-old boy in an attack last week in Cuesta Park in Mountain View, Calif.
The attack happened as the boy’s mother unwrapped a muffin during a picnic.
The boy had to get rabies shot after the attack. He is still getting the shots.
The attack is not the first one reported at the park.
Mountain View Community Services Director David Muela said that as many as six people have been bitten or scratched by squirrels since May, and that the attacks have become more ferocious in the last month.
In response to attacks, the city of Mountain View has announced it plans to start trapping and killing the aggressive tree squirrels. Over the next three weeks, park workers will set tube-like traps in the trees of Cuesta Park and euthanize captured squirrels "in a humane way," said David Muela, Mountain View’s community services director. Ironically, efforts to curb the behavior may have exacerbated the squirrels’ aggressive tendencies, Muela said.
This summer, the city installed new trash receptacles featuring metal tops with a latch that makes it nearly impossible for an animal to rummage through the can in search of food. Increased park ranger patrols and flier distributions cautioning against feeding the animals might have further cut the squirrels’ food supply, prompting them to act more assertively in their quest for food.
Wildlife advocates also oppose the unusual measure of killing the animals and said it won’t solve the problem. "The squirrels will be back," South Bay wildlife rehabilitator Norma Campbell said. "For every one you take out, two more will come in. It could be a never-ending project that isn’t going to accomplish anything." Officials said the increasingly brazen behavior stems from years of being fed by park visitors. The state Department of Fish and Game recommends against relocating habituated squirrels, he said, because their fear of humans has diminished and the problem is likely to remain. Instead, the department recommends the animals be put to sleep, Muela said. Muela said the city couldn’t afford to wait and see if the squirrels’ aggressive behavior goes away eventually, because of the threat posed to public health and safety. Emphasizing his concern for the welfare of park visitors, Muela said, "We will need the public’s cooperation on this, because as long as they continue to feed the squirrels it will exacerbate the problem." Although the squirrels’ behavior has led some to fear the animals might be rabid, Muela said that is highly unlikely because incidents of rabid tree squirrels are extremely rare.