United they fell. Divided, they scampered back into their tree.
Five young squirrels, their tails firmly stuck together by tree sap and nesting material, dropped out of a tree at Reisterstown Elementary School just after lunchtime Wednesday.
"It was really something," said Principal Dena Love. "They were all fighting and squabbling among themselves," trying to agree on which direction to run.
At first, startled teachers and students on the playground thought it was a birth defect of some kind -- Siamese squirrels.
Someone called Baltimore County Animal Control, and by the time the officers arrived, the squirrels had managed to get up to a crook in the tree. But there the consensus on which way to go next had broken down.
"One wanted to go one way, and another wanted to go the other way," Love said.
So that's where Animal Control Officer Tom Strange nabbed them. He caged them up and took them back to the county shelter, where he carefully cut apart the tangle of fur, sap and nesting debris with scissors.
Yesterday morning, the squirrels were released beneath their home, and "they all scampered right back up the tree," Love said. Two of the five, she noted, were white.
Vagn Flyger, a wildlife biology professor and squirrel expert at the University of Maryland College Park, said, "I guess I must have heard of five or six cases of this happening, but it's very rare."
When such tangles occur, the animals' survival chances are slim. "They find them dead sometimes," Flyger said. These animals were lucky. Albino squirrels are also very rare, he said. Their coloring reduces their chance of escaping predators.