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Animals
Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at the Wisconsin Humane Society / Facebook

Baby Squirrels Tangled in Plastic Saved by Wisconsin Veterinarians

There have been growing concerns about the impact that the 8 million tons of plastic that enter the world's oceans each year have on marine life.

But that oceanic focus doesn't mean land animals are safe from plastic pollution.


The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at the Wisconsin Humane Society published a post on its Facebook page Friday detailing what had happened when a "caring finder" alerted the center to five young squirrels in an unusual predicament, KMSP TV reported.

"The tails of these five juvenile Gray Squirrel siblings had become hopelessly entangled with the long-stemmed grasses and strips of plastic their mother used as nest material, and with each other! A predicament that, without careful and quick intervention, would at the least cost each of these squirrels their very important tail (needed for balance and warmth), and likely their lives," the post said.

The veterinarians first had to anesthetize the squirrels all at once.

"You can imagine how wiggly and unruly (and nippy!) this frightened, distressed ball of squirrelly energy was," the post said.

The vets then worked on untangling the "Gordian Knot" of tails.

"It was impossible to tell whose tail was whose, and we were increasingly concerned because all of them had suffered from varying degrees of tissue damage to their tails caused by circulatory impairment," the post said.

It took 20 minutes for the vets to use scissors to cut away at the grass and plastic and free the squirrels. The squirrels then began to recover from anesthesia.

The vets said they would watch the squirrels for a few days to make sure they did not develop tail necrosis caused by a lack of blood flow, but one day after the procedure, they seemed to be doing well.

"Now, one day later, they are all bright-eyed, and three of the five are 'bushy-tailed,'" the post said.

According to the most recent data provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 34.5 million tons of plastic were produced in the U.S. in 2015. Only 9.1 percent of that was recycled. 5.4 million tons were burned and the vast majority, 26 million tons, went into landfills.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) wrote that it often has to rescue animals from littered items.

"Plastic items become intestinal blockages; baited fishing lines entangle limbs, hindering movement and causing dismemberment; and aluminum cans with leftover soda or beer turn into razor-sharp traps," HSUS wrote in a 2010 blog post.

Across the ocean, the UK Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimated it got an average of 14 calls a day about animals endangered by litter.
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