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History Repeats: Red Squirrel Gets STUCK In Manhole Cover In Germany, Just Four Years After Similar Squirrel’s Manhole Stranding

Two firefighters attempt to free a red squirrel, whose head is stuck inside a manhole cover
Feuerwehr Dortmund|

Feuerwehrmänner haben den Gullydeckel angehoben und befreien das Eichhörnchen

On Monday afternoon, a red squirrel found itself stuck in the opening of a manhole cover in the western German city of Dortmund. The squirrel's head and arms were stuck outside the hole within the manhole, preventing the small rodent from wriggling out in either direction.

Dortmund firefighters, who arrived at the scene to free the unlucky squirrel, are no strangers to situations of this nature; in 2019, a red squirrel made headlines for also getting stuck in a manhole, albeit in a different part of the lid. Both this latest red squirrel's manhole quagmire and the other red squirrel's related quandary took place in similar manholes in the same city, nearly four years apart.

Two firefighters attempt to free a red squirrel, whose head is stuck inside a manhole cover
Got Stuck: Red squirrel, age and sex unknown, finds itself in a sticky situation after apparently attempting to crawl through a hole in a manhole cover in western Germany. Photo: Feuerwehr Dortmund

The latest squirrel's stressful saga started when a pedestrian spotted the rodent's little red head and tiny tufted ears peeking out of the road. When she attempted to free the squirrel from the lid, the squirrel panicked and attempted to bite the passerby. Acting quickly, she covered the squirrel with her scarf to calm the animal down while she called the fire department for help.

A crew of no fewer than five firefighters assembled at the scene to begin the rescue. The workers lifted the lid to coax the red squirrel from the hole. But the situation soon unraveled as the squirrel was "uncooperative," the fire department told the AP. After several more tries, the firefighters were able to free the squirrel.

Three firefighters attempt to free a red squirrel from a manhole cover, where it has gotten its head stuck
Help Has Arrived: A nimble crew of firefighters arrived to the scene to free the red squirrel from the manhole cover in Dortmund, four years after a similar incident occurred. Photo: Feuerwehr Dortmund

Four years earlier, a red squirrel lived to tell a similar story after firefighters, police, and a veterinary clinic rescued the small rodent from a Dortmund manhole, the AP reported. In this previous incident, the squirrel could not be removed from the lid on-site and had to be taken to a nearby veterinary clinic while still stuck inside the lid. At the clinic, the squirrel received anesthetic and was treated for superficial wounds.

It remains unclear if the newly freed squirrel is the same squirrel that had to be rescued from a similar predicament in the streets of Dortmund four years ago, the fire department said in a statement. In the wild, red squirrels generally live for about three years, although adults can live for six to seven years. It is possible the first squirrel that got stuck returned to the streets of Dortmund to get stuck once again.

Dortmund, a city that was largely destroyed in World War II, is now home to a popular soccer team.

Three firefighters manage to free a red squirrel stuck in a manhole cover
Hello Again?: The fire department could not confirm if this newly stuck red squirrel was the same squirrel that had needed rescuing four years earlier from a different manhole in the same town. Photo: Feuerwehr Dortmund

This unique predicament seems to happen often in Germany. In 2016 in Munich, a red squirrel described in the BBC as having "curvy hips" and a "huge behind" was freed from a manhole after rescuers slathered the rodent in olive oil to help lubricate the escape. In 2019 in Bensheim, a plump rat was gently popped out of a manhole cover with the help of at least eight firefighters, NPR reported. (The rescued rat was placed back inside the sewer hole.)

I'm A Free Rat, Baby: A plump and plucky rat is saved from a manhole in the town of Bensheim, where it had gotten itself wedged inside a small hole. Photo: Feuerwehr Dortmund

Not all manholes lead to a happy ending. In 2011, after being extricated from a manhole in Hamburg, a red squirrel nicknamed "Gullyver" died, seemingly from the trauma of the incident.

Fortunately, both the uncooperative squirrel that got stuck in Dortmund this week and the stuck squirrel from four years ago evaded such tragedy. Newly freed, the uncooperative squirrel appeared unharmed and scampered up a nearby tree. The squirrel could not be reached for comment.

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