Last week, animal control officers at the Nebraska Humane Society received an unusual call. A homeowner in Elkhorn said he had found a clump of six baby squirrels, in distress, with their tails knotted together.
It all started when Craig Luttman heard screeching outside his home. When he went out to look, he found the six-headed cluster, climbing a tree in his backyard.
"It was like a tug of war," Luttman told the Omaha World-Herald. "All were going in different directions."
The anxious squirrels were handed safely over to the Nebraska Wildlife Rehab for a full recovery.
🐿🐿Weird story of the week brought to you by our awesome animal control officers! 🐿🐿 Animal control got a call for 6...Posted by Nebraska Humane Society on Monday, May 14, 2018
As crazy as this might sound, in Nebraska, this sort of thing is not unheard of.
Laura Stastny, the executive director of Nebraska Wildlife Rehab, told the Omaha World-Herald they get these sorts of phone calls every year or two.
In fact, this sort of thing is also thought to happen to other small rodents, like rats and forest mice.
A "rat king", for instance, is a collection of rats whose tails are intertwined, and the phenomena is linked to a whole bunch of old superstitions and mythologies - probably because it's so rare.
There are also theories that rat kings might not even exist in nature, but that's a story for another time.
In squirrels, Stastny explained, the tangling most often happens because of sticky tree sap, which can cause the baby squirrels' tails to get glued together when they are wrestling in their nests.
Although sometimes, she said, the culprit is a string that somehow finds its way into the nest.
Before Stastny began to untangle the baby squirrels, she gave them some mild painkillers and covered them with a towel so they would remain calmer in the dark. It took about an hour before they were all successfully separated.
In the end, the baby squirrels were fine, although some will have to get surgery on the parts of their tails that were damaged.
However, if Luttman hadn't called about the squirrels, the result might not have been so cheery. If the babies had remained stuck together, they could have starved to death, or become an easy target for hungry predators.
Thankfully, the squirrels are expected to make a full recovery. They will be released into the wild in the next few weeks.