Troubling New Theory Emerges In Flesh-Eating Prospect Park Squirrel Case

Photograph of a squirrel in Prospect Park Steve Severinghaus / Flickr
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Photograph of a squirrel in Prospect Park Steve Severinghaus / Flickr

A squirrel has been terrorizing Prospect Park visitors and my mother since last Friday, and though it's been a few days since the nefarious rodent showed its bite-y little face, a handful of people say they've been attacked and the city is on alert. There's been some speculation (though no proof) that the squirrel is rabid, hence its remarkable thirst for human blood—but it's also possible lil Squirricula is someone's escaped pet, and she just wants a snack, dammit!

Such is the theory put forth by the NY Times, which spoke to several wildlife experts about the sharp-toothed menace's strange behavior. Squirrels don't usually attack humans (unless they're MTA workers), and a rabies infection could certainly explain the Prospect Park squirrel's predilection for violence. But no local squirrel has been found to have rabies in the 25 years since the city started testing them for it, and in fact, the disease is quite rare in squirrels overall.

Arina Hinzen, a state wildlife rehabilitator, told the paper there's a chance a human took the squirrel home when it was a baby, fed it like a pet, and then released it into the park when, like any tween, it stopped being cute. "I get bitten by the ones I nursed and loved and cared for since they were teeny, tiny, little adorable ones," Hinzen said. "Possibly somebody raised it at home and then found out the hard way that they do not make very good pets. Then they put it outside and now this poor, psycho squirrel is attacking everybody."

Squirrels, like most wild animals, tend to become aggressive with humans when they associate them with food, which is why you are not supposed to feed them peanuts no matter how much they beg you with their eyes. "It goes back to the cuteness factor," Christopher Durham, a rehabilitator in Manhattan, told the Times. "They are adorable with their tail, but that is one of the things I always tell children: ‘Never ever feed a wild animal from your hand.'"

Of course, this is merely a theory, and the health department is still urging people who've been bitten to seek medical advice just in case. A Parks Department spokesperson told the Times that though the squirrel attacks seem to have stopped, parkgoers should stay away from wildlife regardless. And if you do see an angry-looking squirrel out there, please do not attempt to fight it, film it, or subject it to armchair psychoanalysis.

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