As an avid squirrel enthusiast, I’m often asked: “Do squirrels bite humans?”. After years of observing squirrels in parks and neighborhoods, I’ve learned quite a bit about their behavior patterns and how they interact with people. So, can squirrels bite you? In this blog post, I’ll share everything you need to know about squirrel bites, including how to prevent them and what to do if you are bitten.
Squirrels don’t typically bite humans unless they feel threatened or cornered. Feed squirrels with caution, avoid baby squirrels, and call animal control for help with removing problem squirrels to prevent bites.
Let’s dive deeper and, hang on because I will also explain what you should AVOID doing in order to not be bitten. Read on!
Table Of Contents
Why Do Squirrels Bite?
Squirrels are naturally quite timid and prefer to avoid humans. However, there are a few scenarios in which squirrels may feel provoked and bite in an act of defense:
- Being handled or cornered – Squirrels will bite if they feel trapped and unable to escape.
- Protecting food or territory – Squirrels are territorial over food sources and dens.
- Mother protecting babies – Mother squirrels are very protective if humans approach their nest.
- Pet squirrels – Even friendly pet squirrels can deliver an unexpected nip.
- Rabies – Rabid squirrels exhibit unprovoked aggression and attack.
1. Biting While Being Fed
Many people enjoy feeding squirrels at parks or in their yards. However, hand-feeding does come with the risk of being nibbled or bitten:
- Squirrels have poor vision up close and may accidentally nip your finger when grabbing for a nut.
- Excited squirrels may also bite the hand that feeds in anticipation of getting another treat.
While squirrel bites are usually harmless, I advise using caution when feeding them by hand:
- Offer food in an open palm and avoid making sudden movements.
- Supervise children closely to prevent bites.
Here’s an example of what could happen while feeding a squirrel:
As you can see in the above video, the squirrel bite didn’t cause any significant injury this time. This was likely caused by the poor vision of the squirrel that initially confused the finger for the peanut.
Finally, be aware that regularly feeding squirrels can cause them to become overly reliant on humans for food.
2. Protecting Babies
In the spring and summer, mother squirrels are especially defensive of their young. They may interpret any human action as a threat, especially if you approach or attempt to touch their nest. Even ordinarily friendly squirrels that you feed may react aggressively if they have babies nearby.
Baby squirrels themselves can also bite, though their small teeth usually don’t break the skin. The biggest danger is having a protective mother attack. So it’s wise to give all squirrel dens a wide berth, particularly in the seasons when females are raising litters.
3. Pet Squirrel Bites
Some people choose to raise orphaned or injured squirrels. But even domesticated pet squirrels can deliver a mean nip since biting is part of their natural behavior. Their sharp teeth can inflict deep puncture wounds on their hands and fingers.
Pet squirrels should be handled carefully and never fully trusted not to bite, especially when food is involved.
Children should not be left unsupervised with them. Responsible owners will keep squirrels current on rabies vaccines to prevent transmission of the disease through bites.
4. Rabid Squirrel Attacks
While rare, rabies is one reason that squirrels can become suddenly aggressive toward humans and pets. Rabid squirrels lose their natural fear of people and may violently attack with bites.
Squirrels suffering from neurological issues like roundworm infections can also exhibit similar unprovoked biting.
A rabid or diseased squirrel won’t back down and is at high risk of biting anyone approaching it.
If you spot an obviously sick or aggressive squirrel, do not engage with it. Contact animal control to have the animal safely removed and tested.
Signs of Rabies in Squirrels
To identify rabies in squirrels, watch for these common symptoms:
- Erratic, aggressive behavior
- Approaching humans and pets
- Attacking without provocation
- Trouble walking or standing
- Daytime activity (nocturnal squirrels active during the day)
- Foaming at the mouth
A squirrel exhibiting multiple symptoms of rabies should be treated as a high bite risk. Immediately contact animal control or wildlife officials to report, contain, and test the animal so proper treatment can be given if needed.
Are Squirrel Bites Dangerous?
For the most part, squirrel bites are not medically dangerous to humans. Their small teeth typically won’t cause major puncture wounds or lacerations. However, as with any animal bite, there are some health risks to be aware of when bitten:
- Infection – Bacteria from a squirrel’s mouth can enter the wound, causing infection.
- Rabies transmission – Extremely rare, but rabid squirrels can spread the virus through bites.
- Other diseases – Squirrels may potentially carry diseases like salmonella, Lyme, or ringworm.
While serious complications are unlikely, it’s smart to exercise caution with any animal bite. Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, and monitor for signs of infection. Contact your doctor if the bite area becomes severely red, swollen, or tender.
Treating Squirrel Bites
My tips for treating a squirrel bite wound:
- Wash the bite with soap and warm water. Use an antiseptic if available.
- Control bleeding by applying pressure with a clean towel.
- Apply antibiotic ointment and bandage the wound.
- Watch for signs of infection like redness, swelling, oozing, warmth, and red streaks.
- Call your doctor, especially if the squirrel seemed sick.
- Update your tetanus shot if it’s been over 5 years.
- Contact animal control to report the bite and have the squirrel safely captured for rabies testing if it seemed unhealthy.
With proper first aid and monitoring, most squirrel bites heal without issue. But it’s wise to consult a medical professional anytime you’re bitten by a wild animal.
How to Prevent Squirrel Bites
Use these tips to avoid bites and safely coexist with neighborhood squirrels:
- Do not attempt to touch, handle, or capture squirrels.
- Avoid getting near squirrel nests and young.
- Do not corner or chase squirrels. Give them an escape route.
- Feed squirrels from your hand with extreme care.
- Supervise kids and pets around squirrels.
- Call animal control to remove problematic biting squirrels.
- Seal entry points and use repellents to discourage squirrels from nesting in homes.
With proper precautions, squirrel bites can easily be avoided in most cases.
It’s also smart to teach children not to approach wildlife like squirrels. Maintaining a respectful distance is the best policy when encountering urban squirrels.
Calling Animal Control
If a squirrel on your property is acting aggressively, the safest solution is to have it humanely removed by wildlife professionals. Trapping and relocating squirrels without proper rabies vaccines can further spread disease.
Licensed animal control experts can safely capture problematic squirrels, check them for illnesses, and release or euthanize them as needed. They can also give guidance on modifying your home to become less appealing to squirrels looking for food and shelter.
Do squirrels bite? Yes, they can, but severe injuries are uncommon. While their small teeth typically don’t cause significant damage, it’s wise to be cautious. Avoid contact with agitated, cornered, and sick squirrels that may nip in self-defense. Follow squirrel bite first aid steps and contact a doctor to prevent infection risk.
Also, please note that, even if cute, chipmunks can bite as well!
With smart prevention and prompt treatment, squirrel bites are easily managed. Understanding the scenarios that cause squirrels to bite allows you to steer clear of these situations. By being respectful of urban wildlife from a distance, you can happily coexist with squirrels in your neighborhood.
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