ORLANDO (THE WASHINGTON POST) - Elderly residents of a senior living community in Florida had a bad scare when a rogue squirrel ran amok, biting and scratching residents and leaving three people injured.
A staff member at the Sterling Court retirement home in Deltona, Florida, called the 911 emergency service hotline on Thursday (Nov 3) afternoon to report that several people had been attacked by a squirrel and needed immediate medical assistance.
The squirrel bit someone sitting outside the building - and when the animal would not let go, the person ran into the activity room.
Once inside, the animal went on a rampage, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
"We had a squirrel that entered our building and it's in our activity room and it's jumping on people and biting them and scratching them," a woman told the dispatcher, according to audio from the Volusia County Sheriff's Office. "So we need help."
During the call, people in the background cried for help.
"I feel light-headed," one person said. "I don't feel good."
"Okay, does anybody there need an ambulance to take them to the hospital?" the 911 dispatcher said.
"I don't know if we need to go in an ambulance, but we need some care for people here," the staff member told him. "It's still in there and the people are bleeding."
"Is everybody out of the room?" the dispatcher said.
The caller asked others: "Is anyone left in the activity room? Is the activity room empty?"
"There is another person in there," she then told the dispatcher. "The squirrel has been tossed outside. But we need help for the people, not about the squirrel."
"Yes ma'am, do you need an ambulance to take them to the hospital?" the dispatcher replied.
"How many people were bitten?" the dispatcher said.
"At least three or four, possibly more," she told him.
A Sterling Court representative declined to comment.
Mr Brian Fawkes, a spokesman for Holiday Retirement, the company that manages Sterling Court, told The Washington Post that a resident captured the squirrel and threw it out the door.
Three people - two Sterling Court residents and a staff member - were injured in the attack, he said.
Mr Fawkes initially said all three were taken to a hospital and given rabies shots; he later clarified to say the three were just treated for bites. He said they were "pretty shaken up" but were "fine."
Signs alerting residents to beware of squirrels in the area have been posted on the property, he said.
Ms Wendi Jackson, a spokeswoman for the city of Deltona's animal control division, said an animal control officer responded as a courtesy but that the city does not typically handle wildlife.
Neither Mr Fawkes nor Ms Jackson knew the fate of the animal.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warns that bites from wild animals that cannot be tested should be treated as exposure to rabies. However, the CDC says, squirrels are generally believed to pose little risk.
"Small mammals such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rabbits, and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States," according to the CDC. "Bites by these animals are usually not considered a risk of rabies unless the animal was sick or behaving in any unusual manner and rabies is widespread in your area."
Sterling Court "offers the best of the Sunshine State, with a heated pool and wonderful amenities to make your retirement experience rich," according to its website. The senior living community is about 30 minutes from Orlando and Daytona Beach.
"Our community is family focused," the website states. "You'll feel instantly at ease exploring hobbies in the game room, study and lounge. The social calendar features bocce ball, ballroom dancing, bridge and more. Dine on chef-prepared meals or plan a picnic in the gazebo. The pool and walking paths offer space to soak up the sun. Discover our little slice of paradise during a visit today."