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No. 83: Sep-Oct 1992

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Tangled-tails tales

"Rat kings" have always been a favorite Fortean pheomenon. They are clusters of rats whose tails have somehow become knotted or glued together. Naturalists also find "squirrel kings" in the wild. However improbable these "kings" may seem, new cases keep coming to the fore. Here follows the first of two, as recounted in the Fortean Times;

"The first incident occurred in Easton, Pennsylvania, in 1989. As 16-yearold Crystal Cresseveur set off for church around midday on Sunday 24 September, she noticed a commotion in the hedge outside her house, it was a writhing furry bundle of six young squirrels all squeaking at once. At first she thought they were playing but she soon realized they were in a panic, and as they pulled in all directions at once they had become firmly stuck among the trunk of the bushes. She called her father, Paul, and their neighbour, Charles Kootares, and with help from the growing crowd of onlookers, managed to extract the frantic cluster from the hedge."

In this case, the squirrels' tails could not be disentangled, and the poor animals were put to sleep. The second incident occurred in Baltimore on September 18, 1991. Here, the squirrels' tails were tangled and stuck together by tree sap, hair, and nesting debris.

(Anonymous; "Tangled Tales," Fortean Times, no. 63, p. 13, 1992.)

Comment. Squirrel kings have even received a modicum of attention in the scientific literature: Animal Kingdom, 55:46, 1952. (See Incredible Life.) Some involve several adult squirrels, and it is hard to imagine how such active animals could become mutually tied and/ or stuck together.

Reference. Our catalog Biological Anomalies: Mammals I also deals with the problem of "rat kings." Information on this volume as well as our handbook Incredible Life can be found here.

From Science Frontiers #83, SEP-OCT 1992. � 1992-2000 William R. Corliss