THE TALE of Stripe the squirrel began cheerfully enough with Corrine Reynolds, an animal lover in north Wales, feeding the creature titbits and watching its acrobatic adventures in her back garden.
But the story took a distinctly un-festive twist when Stripe – named after the sharp-toothed creature in the Christmas horror comedy Gremlins – began nipping at Reynolds and other neighbours.
After the grey squirrel bit more than a dozen people in the town of Buckley, Flintshire, drawing blood on several occasions, Reynolds caught it in a humane trap and had the animal taken away by the RSPCA.
Reynolds, a 65-year-old carer, began feeding Stripe in the summer and for months it made regular trips to her garden, but then it began to bite the hand that fed it.
She reported what had happened on a local social media group page and was shocked at how many others said they too had been bitten.
“In the space of 48 hours he attacked 18 people,” she said. “He started attacking people who are just taking their recycling bags to the bin, and they are quite gruesome injuries.”
One neighbour, Scott Felton, 34, said he had been having a cigarette at his back door when the squirrel pounced. “This squirrel came out of nowhere, jumped on to my arm and bit me on my hand before I even had chance to get it off – it all happened so quick.” He went to hospital for a tetanus jab.
Another victim, Sheree Robinson, 42, who was bitten on her finger, said: “He had five or six of my neighbours. He had me when collecting my recycling bags. He jumped out from behind my green bin. It had me good and proper. I’ve got teeth marks on the top and bottom of my finger. It latched on and I had to shake it off.”
Another resident said Stripe had attacked her two Bengal cats, who usually feared nothing, and admitted she did not go out of her house when the squirrel was lurking.
Reynolds felt she had to take action and bought a humane trap to catch Stripe. The RSPCA came and picked the squirrel up, transferring it from her cage to theirs in her bathroom to stop it from escaping.
There is no happy ending. The RSPCA said it had no choice but to put Stripe down as it is illegal to release a grey squirrel back into the wild.
An RSPCA spokesperson said: “We were incredibly sad to have to put this squirrel to sleep but were left with no choice due to changes in legislation in 2019 making it illegal to release grey squirrels back into the wild. We do not agree with this law and opposed it, but legally we have to comply.”
It said there were ways to humanely deter grey squirrels, such as keeping bird food away from them and blocking access points, and it urged people not to trap them.
The charity does not suggest that people do not feed squirrels but asks them to think about whether it could cause problems in the neighbourhood 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 wound and medical advice should be sought.
Reynolds said she was sad for Stripe but there was relief in the neighbourhood. “I feel it is now safe to go in my garden. I did feel incredibly harsh doing what I did by putting it in a cage, but when people didn’t feel safe in their garden, I had to do it. A few people in Buckley are certainly breathing a sigh of relief.”