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This question comes up often and usually follows a sighting of the squirrel’s big and intimidating set of canines, four in number. The teeth do look fierce against the backdrop of the animal’s fairly small head. But while squirrels do bite, they only do so within reason.
Squirrels are commonly considered to be cute and furry social animals. They are very much at home with friendly humans, especially where nuts are common. Squirrels are very trusting animals and can even eat out of a person’s hand, unlike most wild animal species. When a squirrel feels threatened on the ground, it may at first remain motionless. It would then run in a haphazard fashion to any nearby tree and climb to safety. This is an attempt to confuse the perceived predator and it portrays a level of intelligence in the squirrel, also seen in its habitat building. Read more about how squirrels can harm you.
Sometimes in the course of eating nuts or seeds from a human caretaker’s hand, a squirrel may get carried away and literarily bite the fingers that feed it. This is often as a result of their being short-sighted. Squirrels fail to see things that are very close to their eyes, thus biting without meaning to. While feeding a squirrel, your fingers will remain safe as long as you extend whatever you are offering them on stretched-out palms. If you attempt to feed a squirrel with nuts using your fingers, chances are that you may be bitten. Such bites are thankfully, not severe.
On another hand, squirrels bite intentionally when they are in defensive mode. This often happens when an unfamiliar human attempts to hold or catch them; their sharp teeth would instantly appear and would be used too. It is advisable to avoid handling squirrels when they are guarding anything.
If you are bitten
If bitten by a squirrel or any other wild animal, victims must wash the wound thoroughly and keep it clean to ward off infection. At any sign of infection like redness, swollen bite site, itching, incessant pain, or pus, the wound must be taken to the hospital for evaluation. Read the guide Symptoms of Sick Squirrels.
It is rare for squirrels and other rodents to carry the rabies virus, but there are other infections that can be transmitted to humans from them. For this reason, squirrel bite wounds should be given proper medical attention as soon as it happens. Generally though, it is not necessary to take rabies shots after being bitten by a squirrel, like some are wont to believe. Read the guides A List of Squirrel-Borne Diseases. and Can You Handle a Squirrel With Bare Hands?
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