The Bangor Daily News in Maine is reporting a sighting of a rare and creepy natural phenomenon. Bangor, Maine resident Andrew Day was gazing out a window while visiting his parents’ home when he spotted what appeared to be a writhing mass of gray fur on the sidewalk. Day initially thought it could be an injured animal or perhaps a cat attacking some poor beast and went outside for a better look. Upon closer inspection, Day noticed the mass was actually four juvenile squirrels held together by their knotted-up tails. This bizarre phenomenon, while incredibly rare, has a name: a “squirrel king.”
A nearby housecat was closing in, presumably to eat the hapless squirrels, until Day scared it off. Day then attempted to call Bangor Animal Control, but their office was closed. It was then that Day and his father took matters into their own hands and untangled the poor critters:
I have no idea whose cat it was. But it was a pretty stoked cat. So we got the cat away. And we got the squirrels sort of collectively — as a creepy squirrel pinwheel — by a tree. I got some scissors and I trimmed tail hair off the squirrels for about an hour and a half.
Day and his father donned work gloves and began untangling the squirrels’ knotted up tails which Day says were “like a giant dreadlock” with bits of debris intermingled among the squirrels’ tails. After the poor vermin had their tails untangled, they fled into the safety of a nearby tree where an adult squirrel was waiting for them.
The rat king variety is more common, but the tail tangling can technically happen to any variety of rodent. Sometimes the rodents’ tails become entangled on their own, while other times a foreign substance such as tree sap or tar can cause the tails to stick together.
Rat kings have been documented throughout history, particularly in Europe where rat kings can be found in several museums. Only a few dozen cases have been reported, and rat kings were once even believed to be a form of cryptid.