The short answer is “No” squirrels do not carry rabies. Now, if the question were asked, “Can squirrels get rabies?,” the answer would be “Yes,” however their chances of contracting it is slim to none. In order for a squirrel to get rabies, it would have to hang around with animals that are common carriers. And that just doesn’t happen. Many of the animals that would carry rabies are arch enemies of squirrels, and they avoid them like the plague. Plus, a squirrel is so quick at evasion and with 180 degree vision, the chances of them being bitten by a rabid animal are very remote. Most animals that carry rabies, if they ever got hold of a squirrel would more than likely kill it, so there would end the possibility of it carrying and transmitting the disease.
When people come to the Emergency Room with a squirrel bite, it is one of the few bites that does not trigger a rabbis vaccine protocol. An interesting note that I’ve experienced over the years is that I have been bitten by squirrels numerous times, and I have never had a squirrel bite get infected!
The last bite I had was from a male I was trying to release. He wanted me to stay in the cage with him, and I had other things to do. He kept jumping on me and would not get off. After several attempts to get him to jump off onto one of the limbs in our release cage, he got upset with me trying to brush him off and he ran up to the top of my head and bit deeply into the back of my skull. When I reached up to pull him off, he bit me on the knuckle of my right middle finger, and he bit deep, completely encircling the extensors tendon of that finger. I was working that night in the ER and I showed our doctor the hand wound and she was horrified and wanted to put me on two antibiotics to prevent infection. I told her it wouldn’t be necessary, but if it got infected, I would look her up. Long story short, I never needed the antibiotics. It stayed sore for a couple of days because he did tweak the tendon, but it never got infected and was healed in less than a week.
There are also no vaccinations that I know of that squirrels need to take. So squirrels could get rabies, but don’t. Their bites don’t seem to get infected easily, and they don’t need to be vaccinated against any diseases. I suppose this could change in the future if people try to domesticate squirrels, but for now, that’s the story about squirrels and rabies.
Written by William Sells, a Registered Nurse turned Squirrel Rehabber and Nutritionist.