Health Department Warns Over Squirrel at Prospect Park

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People relaxing in Prospect Park.

The city’s Health Department has urged any Prospect Park visitors that have been bitten by a squirrel in the area of the park near the Parkside Avenue entrance since July 10 to immediately seek rabies post-exposure prophylaxis at an emergency room and to bring any pets that have been bitten by a squirrel to a veterinarian.

The recommendation comes after five people were attacked and bitten by an unusually aggressive squirrel near the Parkside and Ocean Avenue entrance to the park. The incidents occurred between Tuesday, July 18 and Thursday, July 20. All the attacks occurred in the same area of the park.

The Health Department said that this is an isolated incident. Squirrels are rarely infected with rabies; however, based on the unusual aggressive behavior, the Health Department is acting under the assumption that the animal is rabid.

New Yorkers may continue to use the park, but are warned against feeding or approaching any wildlife. Any person or pet bitten by wildlife should contact their health care provider or veterinarian to determine if medical care is needed.

The Parks Department and the Prospect Park Alliance are searching for the animal. If the squirrel was infected with rabies it is likely already dead.

“This animal has exhibited extremely unusual behavior and we are urging anyone who has been bitten by it, including any pets, to go and see your doctor or veterinarian,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Most squirrel bites occur when someone attempts to feed the animal. Keep a safe distance from wildlife and never feed wild animals.”

“Aggression in squirrels is extremely rare, but park-goers’ behavior toward all wildlife should remain the same: Do not approach the animals with whom we share our city, but rather appreciate them from a distance. Keeping your distance protects both you and the animals themselves,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP.