In Depth

Vets successfully separate squirrels tied together in Gordian Knot

Wildlife centre operates to save animals’ tails that became entwined with each other and their nest

Five young squirrels in Wisconsin, USA are recovering from a procedure to separate them, after their tails became entangled in a “Gordian knot” with strips of plastic.

The grey squirrels were spotted knotted together in their nest and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre at the Wisconsin Humane Society was asked to step in.

The animals’ tails “had become snarled together along with the long-stemmed grasses and strips of plastic their mother had used as nest material”, reports HuffPost.

Describing the predicament, the team explained on Facebook how the siblings had “become hopelessly entangled”, referring to the tangle as the “Gordian Knot” - “a legendary elaborate knot sliced in half by Alexander the Great as part of the prophecy which saw him become ruler of Asia”, explains Sky News.

After the animals were captured they were anaesthetised as the team proceeded to carefully untangle the tails, which they said suffered “from varying degrees of tissue damage”.

Describing the procedure, they wrote: “Bit by bit we snipped away at the grass-and-plastic knot with scissors, being very careful to make sure we weren't snipping anyone's tail in the process. It was impossible to tell whose tail was whose,” the centre said.

“It took about 20 minutes to free the young squirrels. And soon after they began to recover from anaesthesia”.

“Now, one day later, they are all bright-eyed, and three of the five are ‘bushy-tailed’, but we’ll need to monitor all of them for a couple of days to watch for tail necrosis caused by impaired blood flow,” the centre said.

The animals’ plight drew many comparisons online with that of the so-called “Rat King”. An “enduring urban legend with historical roots in German folklore,” says Newsweek, rare examples of the entangled rodents “lie pickled in natural history museums around the world”.

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