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The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is releasing guidance for neighbors that are experiencing aggressive squirrels, like those recently reported in New York City. AP News reported that a “serial squirrel,” had jumped on and bitten several residents.

Brian Shapiro, New York state director for the Humane Society of the United States, shared in an emailed statement, “It is frightening to be the recipient of aggressive behavior from a squirrel– our most common wild neighbor. However, these incidents are rare and usually a result of squirrels associating humans with a food reward. Human-supplied food alters their normal behavior into one of reliance, expectation, and confrontation for food when they encounter us. Conflicts between people and wildlife mainly arise when we fail to respect each other’s boundaries. The best way to resolve this problem is simple: the public must stop feeding squirrels by hand. If we stop feeding wildlife and leave them alone, they will leave us alone. They do not need human treats to survive. They do just fine on their own.”

It’s important to keep in mind that there has never been a case of rabies transmission from squirrels to humans, per HSUS. Keep a distance from squirrels and avoid feeding them with your hand.

Source: Eyewitness News ABC7NY/YouTube

According to Shapiro, “Historically, the few uncommon, localized incidents where this has happened were easily resolved by educating residents who cultivated the behavior. People have good intentions when they feed animals, but it ultimately results in harmful outcomes for both squirrels and humans. It is best to appreciate these animals from afar.”

Here are some tips and facts straight from HSUS to help you with squirrels:

  • “Squirrels, like other wild animals generally keep their distance from people. Their natural behavior consists of finding safe shelter and foraging for nuts and the other plant material that make up their diet.
  • Squirrels can contract rabies as any mammal can, but there has never been a documented case of transmission of rabies from squirrel to human.
  • Feeding wildlife causes them to lose their natural fear of humans. Any rare aggressive incident that has occurred is almost always a result of squirrels associating humans with a food reward.
  • These occurrences can be prevented by respecting and appreciating wildlife from a distance.
  • If people want to feed squirrels, it must be done from an appropriate feeder– never by hand.
  • Squirrels have sharp teeth and can mistake your hand — or anything you are carrying — for food if you try to pet them or feed them by hand, so people must respect the presence of urban wildlife and do their best to keep a respectful distance.
  • The Humane Society of the United States works with community leaders and animal care and control agencies across the country about the important role wildlife serves in our communities and encourages non-lethal approaches for addressing conflicts between people and wildlife.
  • The HSUS Humane Wildlife Conflict Resolution Guide helps communities establish sound, humane solutions to issues with wildlife.”

Read more NYC animal news in One Green Planet, including the hawk that was rescued from Brooklyn.

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