"The one we caught was literally in the stroller," said Dave Muela, community services director.
The city is pursuing six Cuesta squirrels that a city-hired wildlife biologist believes are responsible for several bites and scratches to children last year. At least one incident involved an infant, who was scratched several times below his eye while he held a juice box which a squirrel apparently wanted. The uniquely aggressive behavior has not been reported anywhere else, experts say.
Muela said there have been no scratching or biting incidents since the last one was reported Jan. 7, which involved a child. The city followed the attack with an announcement that its plans to trap and kill the squirrels had not gone away since the controversial September announcement.
But instead of using body-crushing traps recommended by the state Department of Fish and Game, the city is now using live traps, and the squirrels will be transported elsewhere to be euthanized with chloroform gas. City officials said the traps will be set while few visitors are in the park.
An online petition opposing the killing of the squirrels started circulating last year, after the story received coverage in the national news in September. The number of signatures has grown from 680 to 850 since the city re-confirmed its plans last month. Of the 850 signatures, 20 are from Mountain View residents.
Local resident Traci Terluin wrote that she signed because "the residents of Mountain View caused the problem by choices they made and shouldn't be killing innocent animals that do not have the ability to make choices. And, parents should be keeping an eye on their kids."
Last year the city began a series of efforts to stop the attacks, including park ranger patrols, squirrel-proof trash cans and large signs in several languages declaring the children's play area a no-food zone. Laws prevent the city from simply moving the squirrels elsewhere, despite frustrated calls from petition signers to do so.
Kevin Duggan, city manager, has said that above all else, the safety of children is the city's top priority.
Muela said it is hoped that once the aggressive squirrels are removed, other measures will prevent the remaining squirrels from developing the same behavior.
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