Animal control officers in Elkhorn, Nebraska, found themselves in quite a sticky situation during a recent call. Apparently, six baby squirrels had managed to get their tails tangled and were moving together as one whirlwind of fur. As crazy as this hairy tale (pun intended) sounds, it’s actually not that uncommon for a group of rodents to get stuck together.
“It was like a tug of war,” Craig Luttman told the Omaha World-Herald. “All were going in different directions.” Luttman first noticed the squirrels when he heard screeching noises coming from a pine tree on his property. Luckily for the babies, Luttman phoned the Nebraska Humane Society, which called in expert squirrel detangler Laura Stastny, the executive director of the Nebraska Wildlife Rehab.
Stastny calmed the squirrels with painkillers before covering them with a cloth. She spent about an hour trimming the fur and untangling the clumps. All the squirrels survived, but sadly, some of them will need to have bits of their tails amputated.
So how did the squirrels get stuck together? A similar incident occurred back in 2017, during which time professor Lucia Jacobs, who teaches psychology and neuroscience at the University of California Berkeley, said it’s possible that a cruel person tied the squirrels together. However, the less malicious explanation that Jacobs offered was that some sticky material had latched onto one of their tails — something like tree sap or candy — and was transferred to the other squirrels’ tails as they slept. Baby squirrels wrap their tails around their siblings when they sleep to stay warm, Jacobs explained, so it’s possible that’s how the tacky substance was transplanted. This explanation is most likely what happened with the squirrels in Elkhorn.
Reports of tangled rodents date back centuries. In the 1500s, sightings of “rat kings,” as they were called, were considered bad luck. Europeans believed these rat masses had other rodents bring them food so they could survive, hence why they were given a royal status and called kings. Fortunately, this “squirrel king” seems like a much cuter mess.