Squirrels are common in urban, suburban and rural areas, populating back yards and parks and providing hours of entertainment for onlookers. While they may seem adorable and even friendly they are not harmless and should not be approached by humans. Squirrels can bite if they are frightened or feel cornered. Feeding squirrels can be dangerous as well; most squirrel bites occur when humans are attempting to share food with them. If you are determined to offer a snack, drop it on the ground or leave it on a bench. Do not attempt to lure a squirrel into feeding from your hand.
If you have been the victim of a squirrel bite, it is important that you care for the wound immediately. The first concern most people have is rabies. Squirrels do not carry rabies, so if the bite is minor and barely breaks the skin, it can be treated as a minor wound. Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. Do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on a wound as it can inhibit the healing process. Next apply an antibiotic cream or spray then cover the bite with a clean, dry bandage. Apply pressure if the wound continues to bleed. If the bleeding continues for more than fifteen minutes the victim should see a medical professional.
If the skin is badly torn, bleeding excessively or induces deep punctures you may need to see a doctor. Again, cleanse the wound with soap and water then apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth until you are able to reach a medical professional. Ragged wounds may require stitches and special care against infection.
Although squirrels do not carry rabies, you will still need to watch for signs of infection in even the smallest bites. If you notice any redness, swelling, oozing, or increased pain, see your doctor immediately to discuss the possible need for antibiotic treatment. Warmth or red streaks at the site of the injury can also indicate infection and should be brought to the attention of a medical professional.
Tetanus is another concern. Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection that can damage the nervous system if not treated immediately. If it has been more than five years since your most recent tetanus booster, and if the animal bite has created a deep puncture or the wound is particularly dirty, you should receive a tetanus booster shot as soon as possible following the bite.
While squirrels are small and may see friendly they are not harmless and are best enjoyed from afar. A squirrel bite can lead to infection if not treated appropriately and immediately. To learn more about squirrel control in Raleigh, please visit this website.