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As is the case with most wild animals, squirrels are not really known as a vicious animal. They’re mostly cute and fluffy, with large brush-tails, and some of them are even tame these days, spurred on to get to know humans more by the prospect of food. For the most part, they'll get close enough to accept the food, but usually scamper away before you have a chance to touch it. Despite being somewhat tame, they are still wild animals, and you’re a much bigger animal than they are. As far as they are concerned, even though you are sharing your food with them, you’re still a predator and that means they need to proceed with caution.
If you move quickly, or try to grab the squirrel, there is a good chance that it could bite or scratch you. It would prefer to run away, of course, probably scampering up a tree and out of reach, but if it can’t get away quick enough, or it is unable to, the only other defense mechanism the animal has, is to fight. It’s either flight or fight for these critters. It’s a dog eat dog world out there … or dog eat squirrel!
Squirrels are quite inquisitive creatures, and being scavengers they will generally inquisitively follow the scent of food. This means that humans and squirrels often cross paths with each other, and sometimes even in the same building. These critters are well known to break into attics and other rarely-visited areas of your home, trying to find a place to build a nest. If you were to try and trap the squirrel, you could be bitten or attacked. You have rendered the animal entirely defenseless, particularly in a live cage trap, and it is just doing what it needs to do in order to break free. If you leave the animal alone, using another method of squirrel removal, you won’t come into such close proximity to the animal. Exclusion traps and devices, for example, mean that you can get rid of the animal without getting anywhere close.
Despite only generally attacking when they feel threatened, it does appear that news reports of fiery squirrels are on the increase. Just a quick look on the internet will bring up a mass of newspaper articles on “killer squirrels”, although you should be aware that squirrels VERY RARELY carry the rabies virus, and there have also been ZERO reports of squirrels actually killing a human. There are reports, on the other hand, of people feeding squirrels and getting bitten, and even getting attacked by other squirrels, usually in a quarrel over food … like, not enough of it. If you feed a squirrel once, it will continue to come back, and it won't be long before a few of its friends come along for the ride too.
It seems that we have created somewhat of a circle here - we are cutting down the natural environments of these creatures so they’re moving right in with us - people. They are now well adapted to living with us too, keeping quiet in the attic (or not really keeping quiet at all) and taking our food, sometimes because we let them but most of the time behind our backs. As they get more used to humans, the squirrels get braver and when they then don’t get what they want - more food - they can get quite annoyed.
The moral of the story here is that squirrels rarely attack humans, but they will if defenseless or attacked themselves. Dogs and cats (prone to disease from squirrel bites), for example, will get too close to a squirrel from time to time and can be met by a nasty bite. If you get too close, or start offering the animal food, there is a good chance that you could be met by a nasty bite too. Keep away - if you don’t get too close, you won’t have the chance to get attacked!
For more information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How much does squirrel removal cost? - get the lowdown on prices.
How to get rid of squirrels - my main squirrel removal info guide.
Example squirrel trapping photographs - get do-it-yourself ideas.
Squirrel job blog - learn from great examples of squirrel jobs I've done.
squirrels in the attic
How to Handle Squirrels Safely