By James Raia
Besides the usual common sense safety and wildlife guidelines, now there’s an increased alert for nature visitors – the finger-eating squirrels of the Grand Canyon.
Park officials have issued a warning about the sharp-toothed creatures. During past busy weekends, the small mammals have sent at least 30 tourists to seek medical care for their bloodied fingers.
“Enjoy squirrels from a safe distance,” park officials said. “Their sharp teeth crack nuts – and cut fingers.”
Hey, humans: Keep away from squirrels
Tourists should stay at least 50 feet away from small mammals at the Grand Canyon, according to the National Park Service.
Rock squirrels are usually about 20 inches long with tails the size of about half their bodies. They’re grayish-brown and they live in boulders, rocks and trees.
“Although they may appear harmless and even curious about you, those little creatures cause the most injuries to visitors,” the National Park Service said in a release. “That’s partly why harassing or feeding any kind of wildlife, no matter how small or familiar, is illegal in all national parks.”
Humans are also a threat to squirrels. Park visitors should never feed animals in the Grand Canyon.
“Human food is hard for rock squirrels to digest, and feeding them has led to several fatalities,” park officials said. “These squirrels have been known to get into backpacks, lunch pails, and trash cans, and to steal food right out of visitors’ hands.”
James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.