Squirrels on the attack in Rockefeller Park

I thought we co-existed with squirrels pretty well, but clearly the squirrels think otherwise. There have been several reports of squirrel attacks at the playground in Rockefeller Park (The Trib has the firsthand accounts and some alarming photos of a nanny’s scratched hand) and the Battery Park City Authority is now on high alert. (My mind keeps envisioning a rodent version of “The Birds.”) Signs have been posted to warn park users, and the authority’s parks crew is coordinating with the Department of Health and the city’s Parks Department to see what can be done.

The Health Department says the aggressive squirrels are usually the ones that have been fed by humans before – a literal biting of the hand that feeds. (The City of New York receives about 70 reports of squirrel bites each year, usually from people who have been feeding them.) If one bites you, call 311 so they can track the incidents. You can see more on the authority’s site here.

So there’s a bit of “who knew” here: Turns out, according to the city’s wildlife resources, the eastern gray squirrel – or Sciurus carolinensis – was nearly gone from New York City by the mid-1800s and was introduced at the end of that century to bring back a natural element to cities. They dug it here and have kept their foothold in the city. Parks estimates that there are 1,500 living in Central Park, for example. Some other fun facts:

  • The black squirrels in City Hall Park are also grey squirrels; turns out they all used to be black but evolved to blend in more with the urban environment.
  • Squirrels do NOT carry rabies. UPDATE FROM L.: The CDC says they “almost never” carry rabies, and they have never been known to transmit it to humans.
  • They can run up to 15 miles per hour and jump 8 feet.
  • They can do some damage: In 1987, a squirrel gnawed on a power line at the NASDAQ computer center, shutting down stock trading for over an hour.

So, what to do? Maybe bring out the dogs…



  1. The squirrels have been really bad since the spring. Time after time, I see people, mostly tourists, feeding them. The people that feed them seem to think it is very cute to feed the squirrels as they snap pics of them eating out of their hands. The squirrels are very aggressive and don’t think twice about hopping onto strollers, into bags or onto to people’s feet (and scratching at children’s hands, like the incident last week).

    • Every few years or so, someone decides to declare war against the squirrels and these ridiculous accusations against the squirrels are made. They do not attack and will usually run from people, dogs and children alike. If someone attempts to corner and catch them, I am sure they would defend themselves but their first course of action is retreat. Squirrels are quite cautious and while they will approach the person who is calling them over, they will not attack the person. Many people will lure the squirrel over without feeding them and still, the squirrels do not attack. This nonsense about squirrels attacking should be stopped! Dogs attack and bite people everyday on the city street but you don’t get an article about anyone looking into this! Leave the squirrels alone and stop trying to create a panic when there is no need for it!

      • They are aggressive. I was sitting on a bench in Washington Square Park with a shopping bag next to me with items from Balthazaar bakery. The squirrel jumped on the bench and went for the bag.
        I also saw a squirrel attack a woman who was just sitting on a bench. It tried to grab her bag and she tried to shoo it away, but it wouldn’t stop jumping at her. She eventually had to get up and leave; the squirrel would not back down.

      • When is the last time you’ve spent more than 5 minutes in a downtown city park? I’m guessing never.

        I’ve seen squirrels approach random people (not feeding them) almost every single time I’ve been in a park. They’re not as hesitant as you’d expect, and most of them will keep coming back even after being repeatedly shoo’d away, if there’s any sort of food nearby.

        I wouldn’t say they’re aggressive to the extent where they’re going out and attacking people, but they are very ballsy and won’t shy away from a human, which leads to these instances of people getting scratched and jumped on.

  2. Why are they aggressive, they don’t attack people. They are asking for people. IT is the entitled people in Tribeca that are aggressive. And NYC Parks needs to plant trees that feed the squirrels instead of those exotic trees that bear no nuts or seeds for them. This whole city is sterile and now they going after squirrels.

    • You might have a point! And sterile it is. Remember the people who had issue with TriBeCians with bee hives! Ouch they might sting us…sorry for those who are allergic and I imagine you carry around an Epi.
      The world is melting people.
      And stop putting poop on city agency cars – I am a tax payer and you are disgusting.

  3. Parents like to blame everyone else, including the squirrels, for their children’s bad behavior. Who will they blame next? The fish? The birds? Wait, it must be the trees. Let’s kill the squirrels and chop down the trees.

  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/05/nyregion/for-squirrels-cinnamon-is-now-the-new-black.html
    They were doing so well in Riverside Park that inbreeding yielded a race of cinnamon-colored squirrels.

  5. The squirrels ARE biting people at Rockefeller Park – my friend’s 4-year-old daughter was bitten last week. She was not feeding or playing with the squirrel beforehand. I’m not sure how the commenters above are pretentious enough to think that squirrels don’t bite just because they haven’t seen it happen with their own eyes.

  6. You are the type of people that go hiking and complain that there are too many bugs in the mountains.

    Learn to share the space, appreciate the wild life, and try to be more compassionate. The world doesn’t revolve around you, your kids, your pets, and your cellphone.

    As for the f******* that signs this article. What are your sources? The stupid nanny that’s playing with their phone instead of paying attention to the kids? The self-absorbed yogi housewife that thinks the streets should be covered in Carrara marble? Do you have any proof of your stupid accusations against these little lovely creatures?

    I hope you don’t call yourself a journalist.

  7. Stu, Maire and JMK, among others, are correct. The believers in “Darth Squirrels” should go to YouTube and look up squirrel videos: they are the most curious, sociable, and gregarious of creatures. Yes, they will climb into a baby stroller if it’s available..and yes, if someone gets spooked and attempts to hit them or push them away they will defend themselves. Certainly, an occassional hostile aggressive squirrels is possible, but that is an exception. Come to think of it, do the squirrel haters ride the subway? My guess if they inadvertently push someone they will be on the receiving end of a lot worse than a ticked off squirrel will administer. Please don’t hand feed them: a finger does look like a peanut, and they will be always looking at hands as a source of food going forward. And how much do you want to bet people try to have their little snowflakes pet them..geee, really. Yes, BPC with their constant greening should plant some berry bushes or whatever would provide a source of food for these critters (squirrels not snowflakes)…what natural foods do they have? Perhaps an Amazon Prime area for them in the future! In any event, common sense, reasonableness, and respect for God’s creatures and we can all get along.

  8. Since all this talk about the squirrels being aggressive and attacking people, I’ve noticed that in the past week or so, the squirrels have disappeared from City Hall Park. There used to be hundreds of them, now I don’t even see one. Anyone know what happened?

  9. Pathetic , that all the squirrels have been killed or
    somehow vanished by some means in
    The park across the street ( Yellowstone Park , 68th
    Ave & Yellowstone Blvd ) & in the Park by the post office on queens Blvd ( a park that spans 3 city blocks ) it seems
    That squirrels have disappeared from all over the city . They are God’s creatures like us & I hope whoever did this gets what they deserve from the higher ups wherever they may be .