Giving new meaning to the phrase “trouble in paradise,” a pint-sized predator is on the loose in one of the city’s most beloved green spaces. Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s favorite urban oasis, has recently been the site of several animal attacks. Between July 18–20, 2017, five park goers, including one seven-year-old girl, were bitten by an unusually aggressive, potentially rabid squirrel. To date, four of the five victims have been identified, and city officials are advising anyone bitten by a squirrel since July 10th to seek medical attention immediately.
The attacks all occurred around Prospect Park’s Parkside and Ocean Avenue entrance, an area now plastered with warning signs in English and Chinese. The Health Department believes that the squirrel in question is infected with rabies, due to its unusually aggressive behavior. Then again, as any local knows, the bold and feisty attitude which characterizes New Yorkers also extends to the city’s critters. Given that the Health Department’s diagnosis remains unconfirmed, it’s possible that the confrontational creature was not infected, just impertinent.
Although the rabies diagnosis was based solely on suspicion, its possibility may increase locals’ alarm. Luckily, the potentially fatal infection, which affects the crucial central nervous system, is not likely to plague park visitors. Since the Health Department began tracking rabies back in 1992, an infected squirrel has never been recorded. Furthermore, the department asserts that there have been no reports of squirrel-to-human rabies transferral anywhere in the United States. Urging awareness rather than alarm, city officials still encourage any individual to seek medical help if a squirrel has bitten them or their pet.
For park patrons curious about the status of this elfin aggressor, both The Parks Department and Prospect Park Alliance are continuing to search for the squirrel. However, the Health Department has speculated that the potentially diseased creature has likely died by now. Still, locals are advised to be vigilant and to keep their distance from their furry neighbors, an easy feat for tough-as-nails New Yorkers.