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Squirrel goes nuts on Vermont neighborhood

BENNINGTON, Vt. - A Bennington neighborhood is being stalked by a renegade gray squirrel, but a Vermont state veterinarian says it's possible the animal is upset because it's homesick for the people who raised it.

At least three people on East Street in Bennington say they've been attacked by a squirrel over the last few weeks.

Kevin McDonald said he was shoveling snow recently when a squirrel jumped onto him. "All of a sudden I felt something on my back and shoulders, scratching," McDonald said.

McDonald said his first concern was that the squirrel might have been rabid, but Vermont Public Health Veterinarian Robert Johnson said there has never been a documented case of a squirrel passing rabies to a human.

McDonald said the day after he was attacked he saw a neighbor battling a gray squirrel. He later learned that another person on the street had also been attacked.

Game Warden Travis Buttle told the Bennington Banner he'd spoken to two people on East Street, but not McDonald, about the squirrel. One woman was bitten on the back of the neck and was undergoing preventative treatment for rabies, but Johnson said he didn't think the squirrel posed a rabies threat because the animal would already be dead from the disease.

One possibility is that the squirrel was raised by humans and then released into the wild. "They've lost their fear of people and they go ballistic (when they encounter a person) because it's not their human," Johnson said. Another possibility is that the squirrel suffered some sort of injury.

"The take-home message is don't try to take care of wildlife because it's very hard to return them to the wild," Johnson said. "A tame squirrel is a loose-cannon sometimes."