Grand Canyon National Park issues wildlife safety warning: Watch out for squirrels

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Tourists should stay away from sharp-toothed creatures at the Grand Canyon — especially squirrels, park officials said.

Grand Canyon National Park officials issued a warning Monday about the park’s squirrel population ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

“Enjoy squirrels from a safe distance,” park officials said. “Their sharp teeth crack nuts — and cut fingers.”

During past busy weekends, squirrels have sent at least 30 tourists to seek medical care for their bloodied fingers, officials said.

Tourists should stay at least 50 feet away from small mammals like squirrels at the Grand Canyon, according to the National Park Service.

“Although they may appear harmless and even curious about you, those little rock squirrels cause the most injuries to visitors,” the National Park Service said. “That’s partly why harassing or feeding any kind of wildlife, no matter how small or familiar, is illegal in all national parks.”

Rock squirrels are usually about 20 inches long with tails the size of about half their bodies, according to the National Park Service. They’re grayish-brown and they live in boulders, rocks and trees.

Even though rock squirrels could cause more injuries to tourists than any other animal at the park, humans are also a threat to the squirrels. Park visitors should never feed squirrels within the Grand Canyon.

“Human food is hard for rock squirrels to digest, and feeding them has led to several squirrel fatalities,” the National Park Service said. “These squirrels have been known to get into backpacks, lunch pails, and trash cans, and to steal food right out of visitors’ hands.”

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