A vicious squirrel is on the prowl in Novato.
What’s been reported as a gray fox squirrel has jumped from trees and scampered into classrooms and garages to attack a total of eight people in northwest Novato in past weeks, and the Marin Humane Society is on the hunt to find the perpetrator before more attacks ensue.
“The fact is, we want people to stay calm,” said Lisa Bloch, Marin Humane Society spokeswoman. “It’s probably just one squirrel and a really unique situation.”
The biting and scratching attacks began three weeks ago when a squirrel reportedly leapt from a tree and onto a man’s head as he did yard work on Nov. 13. He was treated at Novato Community Hospital for his injuries. In another attack five days later, a squirrel entered a classroom at Pleasant Valley Elementary School on Sutro Avenue and attacked a student. As a teacher attempted to flee from the room, she too was attacked, according to the humane society officials.
Because the attacks have all taken place between Sutro Avenue and Vineyard Road, a single squirrel — likely hand-raised, and conditioned to feel comfortable around humans — is believed to be responsible.
“This is one of those stories that’s hard for us to hear,” said Alison Hermance, director of communications at WildCare in San Rafael. “It’s a situation the squirrel has no doubt been fed by people and has been encouraged to get close to people. When he doesn’t get what he wants — he attacks.”
Richard Williams, 78, had the most recently reported entanglement with the squirrel. On the day after Thanksgiving, Williams said he was working on small tasks around his garage, off of Vineyard Road, when he looked up to see a gray squirrel scampering towards him.
“He jumped me three or four different times,” Williams said Wednesday. “I got him off my shoulder the first time. He was clinging pretty hard. When I got him off, my hand and arm were torn up. When I got him off, he’d get back on.”
Williams said his wife, Norma Williams, alarmed by his screams, ran out into the garage with a broom. The squirrel then began to attack her, he said.
Williams managed to grab the squirrel by its tail and threw it to the ground. The squirrel, dazed and in a stupor, then ran off, he said.
“It was just a mad scramble. I was up and down on the garage floor. It was quite an experience,” he said.
Williams’ wife was more fortunate. She was wearing a jacket during the incident and was only scratched on her shoulders, he said. The couple received both vaccines for tetanus and rabies at Novato Community Hospital.
According to the humane society, rabies in squirrels is rare, but all victims have received anti-rabies treatment as a precaution.
The squirrel’s behavior is hardly normal, Bloch said, as most squirrels have a natural fear of humans. To discourage wild animals from becoming too comfortable around humans, residents are told to never feed wild animals. If any individuals come into contact with the squirrel, they are encouraged to visit their physician as soon as possible, Bloch said. Victims should go to the emergency room if seriously injured, she said.
The humane society recommends residents in the area of the attacks cut back trees that overhang roofs and are close to telephone lines. Officials also suggest removing bird feeders and screening or blocking all possible entry ways, especially at the height of fence tops, telephone and power lines.
Hermance, echoing Bloch’s tone, said community members should not become fearful.
“It’s unusual,” she said.”It’s not something typical at all and not something people need to worry about — aggressive squirrels running around Marin County.”