A squirrel-less MTR train and, inset, a squirrel on a tree. Photo: iStock/HK Government

A squirrel hitched a ride on an MTR train in Hong Kong on Sunday, boarding without a ticket and creating panic among the passengers.

At 2pm, a squirrel was spotted running into an MTR carriage as the train was about to leave Cheung Sha Wan Station and head to Lai Chi Kok Station. Some passengers screamed and jumped on to seats in a bid to avoid the small animal, the Apple Daily reported.

The squirrel scurried around the floor looking for a place to hide – some speculated to avoid the ticket inspectors – according to a video clip posted by one passenger.

Another passenger posted a video of a squirrel in a train stopped on the platform at Lai King Station, where it tried to climb the glass door in an unsuccessful bid to escape.

At the same time, others reported seeing a squirrel rushing aboard a train heading to Central just as the announcement “please mind the platform gap” was heard. It was not known if it was the same train-loving squirrel.

An MTR Corporation spokesperson said staff at Cheung Sha Wan Station also received a report of a squirrel on a train, but an inspection turned up no such creature.

According to an expert at Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, the train-traveling animals were Pallas’s squirrels. Squirrels are common in the New Territories in areas like Tai Lam, Shing Mun and Tai Po Kau and are also found in Tai Tam and Po Fu Lam on Hong Kong Island.

Squirrels are listed under the Wild Animal Protection Ordinance and any person who contravenes the regulations is liable to a maximum fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,800) and one year in jail, ticket collectors included.