When squirrels attack

Summertime in Washington, D.C. sometimes seems like an exercise in survival. There are swampy heatwaves in a region where the standard dress-code includes a blazer. And a metro that always seems to be catching fire.

But also: squirrel attacks.

“I was attacked by a squirrel while running this morning so that’s a real thing that happens apparently,” my colleague Adam Serwer told me this morning. He didn’t kill the squirrel with his bare hands, he added, like the Maine jogger who recently drowned a rabid raccoon in a puddle after it bit her.

Adam wasn’t bitten, thankfully. The squirrel leaped onto his chest, then quickly bounded off onto a nearby tree. (“So, basically parkour,” he said.) And it’s actually pretty rare for squirrels to carry rabies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Small mammals such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rabbits, and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States,” the agency says on its website. Woodchucks on the other hand, you don’t want to mess with. They accounted for 86 percent of rodent-transmitted rabies cases reported to the CDC over a 10-year period ending in the 1990s. (You probably know this, but just in case: if you get bitten by any animal that’s acting weird, or if you’re bitten by an animal in an area where rabies is widespread, seek emergency treatment right away.)

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