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Tribeca Citizen | Squirrels on the attack in Rockefeller Park


Squirrels on the attack in Rockefeller Park

I thought we co-existed with squirrels pretty well, but clearly the squirrels think otherwise. There have been several reports of squirrel attacks at the playground in Rockefeller Park (The Trib has the firsthand accounts and some alarming photos of a nanny’s scratched hand) and the Battery Park City Authority is now on high alert. (My mind keeps envisioning a rodent version of “The Birds.”) Signs have been posted to warn park users, and the authority’s parks crew is coordinating with the Department of Health and the city’s Parks Department to see what can be done.

The Health Department says the aggressive squirrels are usually the ones that have been fed by humans before – a literal biting of the hand that feeds. (The City of New York receives about 70 reports of squirrel bites each year, usually from people who have been feeding them.) If one bites you, call 311 so they can track the incidents. You can see more on the authority’s site here.

So there’s a bit of “who knew” here: Turns out, according to the city’s wildlife resources, the eastern gray squirrel – or Sciurus carolinensis – was nearly gone from New York City by the mid-1800s and was introduced at the end of that century to bring back a natural element to cities. They dug it here and have kept their foothold in the city. Parks estimates that there are 1,500 living in Central Park, for example. Some other fun facts:

  • The black squirrels in City Hall Park are also grey squirrels; turns out they all used to be black but evolved to blend in more with the urban environment.
  • Squirrels do NOT carry rabies.
  • They can run up to 15 miles per hour and jump 8 feet.
  • They can do some damage: In 1987, a squirrel gnawed on a power line at the NASDAQ computer center, shutting down stock trading for over an hour.

So, what to do? Maybe bring out the dogs…


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