The city had a rash of squirrel attacks. So the mayor put the ‘best team on the case’

William N. Beckon

Lately, residents of New Orleans’ Lake Vista neighborhood have had to watch their backs — there have been reports of squirrel attacks in the area.

Since Sunday, there’ve been claims of up to six cases of violent squirrels in the area, according to WWLTV4.

Gary Prechter, a pastor at St. Pius Catholic Church, is one of the people who was on the receiving end of an angry squirrel’s wrath.

“All of a sudden I felt something on my back and it was a squirrel,” he said to WWLTV4. “I grabbed it and I flung it down on the lane and it turned around and came back at me. It attached itself to my ankle and started biting me and scratching me and I tried to get it off as best I could.”

He’s not the only church member attacked: Prechter said that two women were also attacked in his church’s parking lot Sunday after mass. Another man was reportedly bit by a squirrel that snuck into his house, according to WWLTV4.

One of those assaults was caught on video.

But residents of Lake Vista shouldn’t fret — New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he put the city’s “best team” on the case.

And judging by the results, Landrieu and the city of New Orleans might quell this uprising of squirrelly attackers pretty quickly.

“We put our best team on the case,” Landrieu tweeted to a WWLTV4 reporter working on a story about the attacks. “And 3 of the squirrels in question have been apprehended.”

That’s right: In response to the attacks, the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control put out traps to try to catch the squirrels responsible for the mayhem, and came up with three potential perpetrators.

Of course, squirrel attacks are a relatively rare phenomenon — so much so that the CDC, which tracks the number of people killed by dogs and other non-human mammals, has no official documentation of fatal squirrel encounters, according to The Atlantic.

For comparison, between 1999 and 2015, 522 people were killed by dogs, according to CDC data.

“Squirrels aren’t among those listed” in regard to ‘non-human mammals,’ a CDC spokesman told The Atlantic. “It’s more snakes, spiders, and a few more common things.”

That doesn’t mean the attacks never happen. In July, New York health department officials had to issue a warning about an “unusually aggressive squirrel” that bit five people in a Brooklyn park, according to The Washington Post.

The squirrels might be attacking because people are feeding them. The Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis issued a warning in a blog post that students should avoid treating the animals too much like pets.

It could make them violent, the school cautioned.

“If fed by humans often enough, they will stop foraging for their own food and will rely on humans,” the university said.

As New Orleans continues to investigate the attacks, Prechter is warning his neighbors to watch out.

“I’m telling everybody in the neighborhood beware of the squirrels,” Prechter said to WWLTV4. “Don’t feed them any longer. They’re not your friend.”

Related stories from Sacramento Bee