Mountain View Voice

News - March 2, 2007

Squirrels fight back

Another child scratched last week in Cuesta Park

by Daniel DeBolt

Just as it was being announced the city had trapped its first squirrel at Cuesta Park, one of the ill-reputed critters attacked once more — this time jumping on a 4-year-old's face as her mother and a park ranger looked on in horror.

"The report is true," confirmed Dave Muela, community services director.

Santa Clara resident Debbie Allard told the Voice that she had read about Cuesta Park's squirrel problem but was unaware just how quick and quiet the squirrels could be.

"I didn't realize the chips would be a problem," she said. "You are not supposed to bring any food into the park, which is kind of ridiculous that you can't bring food into a park — or be attacked."

While her daughter played on the Cuesta Park playground last Thursday, Allard opened her purse to remove something. Then, while her back was turned, the squirrel took the bag of chips and ran off to eat them under the cover of the children's play structure.

A nearby park ranger saw what happened and confronted Allard. As the two spoke and watched the squirrel eat the chips, Allard's daughter, Hayley, ran towards to squirrel, possibly thinking it would run away as squirrels do in other parks.

But that doesn't always happen at Cuesta. As the ranger and Allard looked on, the squirrel jumped on Hayley's face and jumped away, leaving scratches to both cheeks and her forehead. Allard said Hayley's eye was barely missed.

The attack brings to 13 the number of reported squirrel attacks on people, mostly children, at Cuesta Park since May 2006.

"We didn't expect Hayley to jump in there," Allard said, adding, "I'm not going to try to take food from a squirrel."

After months of consulting with a local wildlife biologist and the Department of Fish and Game, the city has announced plans to capture a small group of squirrels — about five or six — that it believes have become unusually aggressive. Earlier last week, the city's exterminators trapped the first one using a baby stroller as a decoy. The squirrel will be euthanized off-site with chloroform gas by Clarke Pest Control.

"In my mind it [the latest incident] reinforces the actions taken thus far," Muela said. "Park visitor safety continues to be our No. 1 priority. We continue to need the public's help in not feeding the squirrels."

The city has posted signs in several languages to create a no-food zone in the children's play area and has installed squirrel-proof trash cans. All the attacks have happened near the children's play area.

When the decision was announced in September to trap the squirrels, it was widely reported — and hotly contested by animal rights groups like People for Ethical Treatment for Animals, who threatened a lawsuit.

No new attacks or squirrel captures were reported by press time.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by Francisco Javier, a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2011 at 8:46 am

I don't wanna be the "squirrel defender" here but maybe chips' natural food source is scarce, could be fruit & nuts or whatever those eat.
Maybe authorities should research until they find the roots of the problem. If the squirrels are starving due to a reduction in their feeding supplies maybe the problem could get worse and expands to a broader area of the county... trapping a couple of them would be ineffective.


Posted by Amykins, a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Francisco, your idea would be overly costly and, if you ask me, ridiculous. If the squirrels have no food then there is a good likelihood that there are too many squirrels competing for limited food sources, and the best and most humane thing would be to euthanize them, anyway. Furthermore, they're attacking little children. I don't have kids, but if a squirrel leapt on the face of any child of mine, I'd grab it and pound it into a mushy pulp on the spot.


Posted by Georgia, a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2011 at 1:07 am

You guys you guys, they weren't trapping innocent squirrels with nut lures, they were trapping the squirrels who chose to attack the decoy BABY STROLLERS!

- Toronto


Posted by Diana Eickholt, a resident of another community
on Apr 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

If you are told not to bring food into the park, there is a reason, how irresponsible is it for a mom to bring food anyway and then blame the animal for taking the food? Its sad that a child got attacked, but parents need to take responsibility and not only follow rules, but also teach their children not to run at strange animals, that will scare them and they will attack, it is natural.


Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Both Francisco and Diana must be morons. It is not irresponsible for a mother to bring a snack for her kids to a PARK. Yes, I understand there are signs and all that. But what if you were not familiar with the town/park/hostile squirrels. I understand your concerns for rules and safety, but kids don't always listen. Do you suggest we spank our kids for trying to scare away a squirrel? Why don't you bring your kids to this park and let them have at it?

I agree with Amykins and Georgia. Nuke the squirrels for all I care. I'd pound them to bits and twist their little heads off if they attacked my kid. And I wouldn't shed a single tear for them. It's a shame, but it has to be done. If PETA has a problem with it, then they can go balls to the wall in protective garb to eradicate the squirrels by their standards (which are retarded)


Posted by foamy, a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:11 pm

They should not euthanize the squirrels, but instead should the people who were stupid enough to ignore the signs prohibiting food in the park. Wild animals have a natural fear of humans but may overcome that fear if they become imprinted and learn to recognize humans as a food source, which occurs when people feed them. They were here first and we are encroaching on their territory. If people fear squirrel attacks than maybe Thea should bring their kids to a different park and teach them not to try to take food away from animals, wild or domestic. I am a mother myself and feel bad for the child, but it is the parent's irresponsibility that caused the incident in the first place. Btw, there are more deaths and injuries in national Parks caused by deer than any other animal including bears, mountain lions, coyotes, wolves, etcetera because people see deer, think" ohh it's
Bambi!" Ans approach them thus getting hurt or killed. Should we euthanize all the
deer too? Just sayin'!


Posted by James Dioxn, a resident of Slater
on Jun 26, 2013 at 10:02 am

It's all anti-squirrel propaganda. Listen, I've been feeding and caring for squirrels for over 30 years. When these guys are starving, they'll go looking for food. Squirrels have different personalities. For every dozen cute guys who beg and gently take a nut from your hand, there's one wiseass who'll do the Freddy Krueger thing and swipe at your hand with his sharp nails. When it's squirrel mating season, they're particularly worked up and impatient. If there's more than one squirrel at a time--it's a Race to see who gets the most food the fastest! Naturally people can get scratched and even bit. This is further complicated by the placement of their eyes: they see in nearly 360 degrees but immediately in front of their face, like by their mouth, it's a blind spot and they rely entirely on smell to locate food.


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