Stripe the Squirrel’s story began quite happily with Corrine Reynolds, an animal lover from North Wales, feeding the creature and watching its acrobatic adventures in her back garden.
But the story took a decidedly un-festive turn when Stripe – named for the razor-sharp creature from the Christmas horror comedy Gremlins – began to nibble on Reynolds and other neighbors.
After the gray squirrel bit more than a dozen people in the town of Buckley, Flintshire, spilling blood several times, Reynolds caught it in a humane trap and had the animal removed by the RSPCA.
Reynolds, a 65-year-old caregiver, started feeding Stripe in the summer and for months she made regular trips to her garden, but then started biting the hand that fed her.
She reported on the page of a local social media group and was shocked at the number of others who said they too had been bitten.
“Within 48 hours, he attacked 18 people,” she said. “He started attacking people who were just throwing their recycling bags in the trash, and those were pretty horrific injuries.”
A neighbor, Scott Felton, 34, said he was smoking a cigarette at his back door when the squirrel jumped up. “This squirrel came out of nowhere, jumped on my arm and bit my hand before I even had a chance to remove it – it all happened so fast.” He went to the hospital for a tetanus vaccine.
Another victim, Sheree Robinson, 42, who was bitten on the finger, said: “He had five or six of my neighbors. He got me when collecting my recycling bags. He jumped out from behind my green bin. It did me good. I have tooth marks on the top and bottom of my finger. He hung on and I had to shake him.
Another resident said Stripe attacked her two Bengal cats, who were generally fearless, and admitted that she does not come out of her house when the squirrel was in hiding.
Reynolds felt she needed to take action and purchased a humane trap to catch Stripe. The RSPCA came looking for the squirrel, transferring it from its cage to theirs in its bathroom to prevent it from escaping.
There is no happy ending. The RSPCA has said it has no choice but to take Stripe down because it is illegal to release a gray squirrel into the wild.
A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: “We were incredibly sad to have this squirrel put to sleep, but we had no choice due to legislative changes in 2019 making it illegal to release gray squirrels in the wild. We do not agree with this law and we opposed it, but legally we must comply with it.
He said there were ways to deter gray squirrels in a human way, such as keeping bird food away from them and blocking access points, and urged people not to trap them.
The charity doesn’t suggest that people don’t feed the squirrels, but asks them to think about whether that might cause problems in the neighborhood and points out that they are very good at finding their own food.
The British Pest Control Association says it is very rare for squirrels to bite humans, but if they do, it can be a deep injury and medical advice should be sought.
Reynolds said she was sad for Stripe but there was relief in the neighborhood. “I think it is now safe to go to my garden. I felt incredibly hard doing what I was doing by putting him in a cage, but when people felt unsafe in their backyard, I had to do it. A few people in Buckley certainly breathe a sigh of relief. “