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Do Squirrels Carry Rabies?

Last Updated: 16.04.24


Even though squirrels seem adorable with their bushy tails and pointy ears, a natural squirrel repellent might be the only thing you might want to use against them after you’ve had them in your yard for a while.

While usually found in a forest, these rodents are divided into a variety of species that are commonly found throughout the whole continent. Even if you’ve never met a flying squirrel (don’t worry, it can’t actually fly), chances are you’ve seen a representative of this family when out camping or simply when barbecuing in your backyard.

Left unchecked, they can bring true havoc to your enclosed spaces such as the yard, the attic or the basements. However, you should also pay attention as interacting with squirrels can also bring you close to certain diseases. Thankfully, we wrote this article to see exactly how much potential of giving you rabies they actually have.


Why This Question?

Since a wide range of animals is known to carry rabies and because squirrels are one of the most encountered rodents in North America, this is a question that is asked pretty often. In addition to that, hunters, hikers, and any kind of humans who enjoy spending time in nature run across them all the time, so knowing whether they are dangerous or not is always good.

Fortunately for us, squirrels do not usually carry rabies even though, in theory, any warm-blooded mammal can carry or contract it. These bushy-tailed rodents are one of the few animals which will not cause panic and triggering of rabies protocol in a hospital or a veterinary office.

They are known to be benign most of the time, but you should not take that as a statement that is always true. If you were bitten by a squirrel, there is no guarantee that it wasn’t a rabies carrier so you should go and get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. Just because it does not normally happen, it does not mean you should not be very serious about possibly getting this disease.


Do They Bite?

First things first, you should know that squirrels are not aggressive animals by nature. While it’s possible to meet one if, for example, you encounter a mother with her babies nearby, they are generally kind souls that don’t like violence.

If you meet a squirrel and it takes a few seconds to stare at you instead of immediately running away into the trees, that’s when you know you’ve really done something to upset it. Since they will mostly just jump into a nearby tree, it’s difficult to get bitten by one due to the proximity that is required for this.

Squirrels are some of the fastest and more agile creatures out there and their agility is maybe unmatched. That being said, there have been reports of squirrel hunters getting bitten as they were collecting the ones they already shot, but this is a very rare situation.


My Pet Was Bitten By A Squirrel

A household pet which was bitten is a serious situation that must not be taken lightly. Even though the chances of the squirrel carrying rabies is low, you should still ask your veterinarian to check for it, especially since your pet should have a rabies vaccine at some point anyway.

Reporting the incident is vital since your veterinarian can pass the information further to the wildlife authorities that will check for a possible rabies infestation in the area. Therefore, take care of your beloved pet’s safety by taking him to the professional in charge of him and take care of everyone else’s safety by letting the authorities know what happened.


I Was Bitten By A Squirrel

As we said, getting bitten by a squirrel is an improbable scenario but it may still happen sometimes. Get yourself to the nearest clinic or hospital and keep in mind you may need to provide some information to the staff there about the animal and its behavior.

Squirrel bites do not trigger the rabies protocol but if it was foaming at the mouth or behaving aggressively, then you should let your local wildlife agency know. A report of a potential rabies infestation might trigger more investigation and you should wait in the hospital until it is concluded. If a rabid squirrel did bite you, you will be given special medication for this.


What About An Infection?

Bites from a squirrel almost never get infected, but this does not mean you shouldn’t get medical help right after it happens. The wound may be deep and painful but medical professionals will generally be relaxed about the possibility of getting rabies from it simply because squirrels don’t usually have it.

Of course, it is hard to account for other animals in the woods that might bite them. Even if this would be true, rabies is still generally not passed on to these critters so you should be safe, especially since most carriers generally look to kill them.

Signs That Rabies Is Present

When the majority of people hear “rabies”, they imagine dramatically snarling animals that are foaming at the mouth and are incapable of being restrained. Well, to be honest, that is one definition, sure, but there are other, more subtle tells that you are facing one with this disease.

A good place to start would be the fact that rabies is very rare in small mammals, ergo, this is why it is rare in squirrels. The best sign that an animal like this is affected is any behavior that is out of character, such as lethargy, unprovoked aggression, fearlessness or simply falling over.

Since squirrels are mostly peaceful animals, you really have to watch out for their behavior. A very small number of people are actually bitten by one and, in most cases, they had it cornered somewhere or they tried to pick it up or feed it by hand. In such cases, it’s natural that an animal that feels threatened will want to bite.

If none of these happen, though, and you’re still facing a furious furry rodent, then you might just have been unlucky enough to witness one of the very, very, very few rabies-carrying squirrels. If you own a pet, however, note that the risk of a cat or a dog getting bitten is considerably higher than a human’s.


So What Do I Do?

The widespread myth of squirrels that are sharing rabies left and right is, unfortunately, a very popular story. Do squirrels carry rabies? The short answer would be “No”, as the chances of this happening are extremely low. They are extremely agile and fearful mammals, making it unlikely that they are ever bitten by a disease-carrying animal.

Don’t be afraid of them and enjoy your time in nature when meeting these furry rodents. If you or your companions ever get bitten, calmly visit a medic but simply because this is the responsible thing to do, not because you have just gotten rabies.

Always remember that it’s extremely improbable for a small mammal to carry this disease. Furthermore, we live in an advanced age and any case that does indeed prove to be rabies can easily be cured with prompt treatment of antibiotics.



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