When five baby squirrels were found fused together, rescuers were quick to realize that the animals’ situation was serious. As a result, they would have to race against the clock to free the critters – and without causing the squirrels any further harm in the process.
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is a non-profit animal hospital run by the Wisconsin Humane Society. Based in the city of Milwaukee, the center rehabilitates thousands of ill or wounded animals each year. And when these creatures are better, the staff at the center release as many of the animals as possible back into the wild.
Over the years, the center has helped animals from close to 150 species. So with that in mind, you’d have thought the staff there would have seen it all when it came to caring for various creatures. However, in September 2018 they received what must have been one of their most perplexing cases to date.
It all began when a member of the public contacted the animal center regarding some baby squirrels. The five creatures had seemingly gotten themselves into quite a predicament. As a result, the good Samaritan in question knew that professional help was needed.
When the baby squirrels arrived at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, it became all too evident what the problem was. Somehow, all five of the youngsters’ tails had become attached to one another. And being stuck together was causing them a lot of distress.
In a Facebook post from September 2018, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center described the turn of events as “A Tale of Five Tails.” In the subsequent account, staff relayed what they believed had happened to the squirrels and how they planned to help.
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center explained that the squirrels’ tails had been matted with plastic and grass – materials that the animals’ mom had probably created their nest from – before becoming attached to their siblings. And if the squirrels had been left without assistance, the damage caused to them could have been significant.
The longer the squirrels remained tangled up, the more likely it was that they would sustain damage to their tails. And if things progressed too far, the creatures might have even lost the appendages, which would have reduced the squirrels’ chances of survival going forward.
That’s because all squirrels rely upon their tails for balance and warmth. The tails help them to clamber up tree trunks to find food and shelter or escape predators, for instance. So with that in mind, life without a tail would be difficult for any squirrel.
With every moment precious in the battle to save the squirrels’ tails, vets at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center would have to work against the clock to save the fivesome. However, given the complexity of the knot, untangling the critters would require precision and patience.
“You can imagine how wiggly and unruly (and nippy!) this frightened, distressed ball of squirrelly energy was,” the post from Wildlife Rehabilitation Center explained. “So our first step was to anesthetize all five of them at the same time.”
With the squirrels knocked out, vets could start figuring out which tail belonged to which animal. And that was no mean feat, to say the least. In fact, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center compared the tangle to the “Gordian Knot” – an impossible puzzle faced by Alexander the Great in ancient folklore.
“It was impossible to tell whose tail was whose,” the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center post explained. “We were increasingly concerned because all of them had suffered from varying degrees of tissue damage to their tails caused by circulatory impairment.”
Thankfully, the team of veterinary professionals refused to give up on the five little squirrels. They spent time painstakingly snipping away at the tangle. All the while, they had to take extra care not to catch the critters’ precious tails.
Eventually, the vets’ efforts paid off, and they managed to free the five squirrels. And soon after the effects of the anesthesia wore off, the animals were back to their normal selves – albeit a little less furry in places.
“Now, one day later, they are all bright-eyed, and three of the five are ‘bushy-tailed,’” a September 14, 2018, update on the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center’s Facebook page explained. “But we’ll need to monitor all of them for a couple of days to watch for tail necrosis caused by impaired blood flow.”
Given that the squirrels weren’t completely out of the woods just yet, so to speak, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center appealed for donations towards the critters’ medical costs. And when people read about the animals’ ordeal, they gave generously – raising more than $900 in a couple of weeks.
In general, it appeared that Facebook users couldn’t get enough of the adorable animals and their amazing rescue. The post outlining their ordeal attracted 2,500 reactions on the social media site, and it was also shared 1,200 times.
Furthermore, in the comment section of the Facebook post, many people expressed their appreciation to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for potentially saving the squirrels’ lives. “Poor little guys!” Monica Ambrowiak wrote. “Glad they got the help they needed!”
Meanwhile, Linda DeBaker Mucha Thomas added, “Blessings to the finder for getting these sweethearts to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Wisconsin Humane Society! Blessings, too, to the awesome wildlife staff!”