Untangling a Knot of Baby Squirrels

Caitlin had never seen anything quite like it, six baby squirrels on the ground behind her home, their tails all knotted together.

“It’s called a squirrel king or a king’s knot,” said Ashley Kendall, Senior Wildlife Manager at Anderson Humane, where Caitlin took the baby squirrels. Ashley suspects the six-week-old squirrels’ nest was in a nearby pine tree, where sap combined with debris to entangle their tails inextricably. Clearly, the squirrels would not survive in this state.

“Animals have to be in 100 percent shape to go back in the wild. If they have a disability, they won’t survive”

Anderson Humane’s wildlife team anesthetized the distressed babies and worked carefully with mineral oil and Dawn dish soap to clean and untangle the tails. Four of the squirrels were soon separated, cleaned, and fed. The other two were significantly damaged, their injuries leaving the bone exposed and their tails unusable. Sadly, they didn’t survive.

“Animals have to be in 100 percent shape to go back in the wild. If they have a disability, they won’t survive,” said Ashley. “A lot of the animals we treat don’t make it. But we spend a lot of time and effort doing what we can to help them.”

After two days of care, the four squirrel siblings were ready to be reunited with their mom. Thanks to the information Caitlin provided when she dropped the squirrels off, they knew exactly where to find her – near a row of pine trees behind Caitlin’s townhouse. She had even seen the squirrel mom still in the area.

Ashley put the babies in a reuniting box, like a cardboard cat carrier, and took them to the spot. She played some baby squirrel call sounds on her phone, and soon their mother appeared. “The mom was flipping out. She came right away,” Ashley said. “It was all I could do to put the box down and get out of the way.”

When Ashley went back to check the box the next day, all of the baby squirrels were gone, presumably ensconced in another nest with their mom, grateful to be healthy and free.

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