The domains of humans and wildlife frequently overlap; unfortunately, that often doesn't work out so well for wildlife. Objects and infrastructure made for people can be hazardous to animals, and curious or unwary creatures — wild and domesticated alike — sometimes find themselves in predicaments that they can't escape without help. Here are 11 times that animals got stuck in things in 2019.
City rats are known for traveling through underground sewers and pipes, but one rat in Germany was a little too rotund to squeeze through a hole in a manhole cover, and had to be pried out by a team of helpful humans. Animal rescue workers in Bensheim were alerted about the stuck female rat, which became trapped halfway through the hole on Feb. 24. "She had a lot of winter flab," one of the rescuers said. To release the rat, the rescuers teamed up with members of the local fire brigade. They secured the front end of the rat with a loop at the end of a pole and then lifted the manhole cover, gently pushing on the rat's posterior until it popped through. She was then released into the sewer unharmed.
Taking a dip
On Nov. 11, a Staten Island family found an unexpected visitor in their outdoor pool — a deer that had fallen through the plastic cover and was unable to climb out. Pool owner Donna LaForgia told the Staten Island Advance that she noticed a hole in the cover early that morning, and then saw the deer's head pop up; it may have tried walking across the cover, which then tore under the deer's weight, LaForgia said. The animal was struggling but unable to clamber through a small gap near the pool's edge. After LaForgia and her family rolled back the cover and retreated away from the pool, the deer made a successful bid for freedom and bolted away.
"A jarring rescue"
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) in Tampa, Florida, responded to a situation on Oct. 17 in the District One office parking lot, involving a raccoon with its head stuck in a plastic bottle. Video of the incident, shared by the HCSO on Facebook, showed the distressed raccoon roaming around in circles; "the animal was scared and confused, running into the parking stops and curb," according to the post. The raccoon eventually climbed a tree, and deputies were able to shake it down into a sheet and remove the container. HCSO representatives called the episode "a jarring rescue" on Facebook.
After a coyote was struck by a vehicle on Nov. 18 in Whiteside County, Illinois, the driver called the sheriff's department to report that the animal was stuck in the vehicle's bumper. Deputies and representatives of the Whiteside County Animal Control freed the coyote, which was not seriously injured, and brought it to a location away from the road, the sheriff's office reported on Facebook. "In my 20 years of service, I have never seen anything like this," Whiteside County Sgt. Mike Bauer said in the post.
A nose for trouble
A very small opening at the bottom of a stucco wall proved irresistible to a curious dog on Oct. 9 in Mesa, Arizona. Unfortunately for the canine, after it jammed its snout through the hole it was unable to pull its head back out, United Press International reported. A neighbor heard the dog's cries and alerted the Mesa Fire and Medical Department, who were able to swiftly extract the dog, which was scared but otherwise unharmed, the department wrote on Facebook.
Miniature horse Chiquita took a forest stroll that ended abruptly with a tumble into a sewer pipe on Aug. 15. Rescue crews in Hampshire in the United Kingdom — including veterinarians and animal rescue experts — converged on the village of Waterlooville after receiving calls about a miniature horse that was trapped in a concrete drain, according to an incident report posted online by the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service. Chiquita, who measures about 3 feet (1 meter) tall at the shoulder, was lifted out with a harness and forklift, and was unharmed by the ordeal, according to the report.
Whoooo could have seen this coming? After a great horned owl was struck by a truck on an Arizona highway, its head became lodged in the vehicle's grille. Mike and Annette Hanson, who were driving the truck, heard an impact while they were driving to their home in Glendale, Arizona, on the evening of Oct. 30, and they found the stuck owl after they pulled into their driveway, Arizona's KPHO reported. The Hansons tried to free the struggling owl but quickly realized they were only agitating the bird, and they contacted Liberty Wildlife rescuers to take over the rescue. After animal rescue workers freed the owl, they brought the nocturnal raptor to the sanctuary to check the extent of its injuries before releasing it back into the wild, according to KPHO.
One hedgehog, one cup
A small cardboard container might not seem very hazardous, but a discarded cup caused plenty of trouble for a hedgehog in Scotland; the prickly, pint-size animal was likely nosing inside the cup for traces of food when it got stuck, and its spines prevented it from backing out. Video captured on Aug. 7 by passerby Cameron Bonner in Loch Lomond, Scotland, shared the hedgehog's predicament; the clip shows Bonner picking up the cup and shaking the hedgehog loose, Microsoft News reported. In a Facebook post, Bonner urged people to dispose of their trash properly, adding that if he hadn't freed the hedgehog it might have starved to death, according to Microsoft News.
Halloween provided more tricks than treats for an unlucky deer in Westchester, New York. Over several days, Putnam Valley residents reported sightings of a deer with a faded plastic pumpkin stuck on its head, News 12 Westchester reported on Nov. 21. Photos showed that the pumpkin covered the lower part of the deer's face, so the animal was unable to eat or drink. Wildlife animal rescuers, neighbors and authorities with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation collaborated to spook the deer so that it shook the pumpkin off.
A discarded tire at a storage facility in the United Kingdom first attracted and then trapped an inquisitive fox on Oct. 4, after the animal poked its head through a hole in the hubcap's center and was then unable to pull itself back out, Bristol Live reported. Rescue workers with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) brought fox and tire together to the RSPCA Bristol Animal Rescue Centre, where they gently freed the animal. "We used a veterinary lubricant and rubbed it all over his head and neck so we could slowly and carefully maneuver him out," Mandy Stone, a veterinary manager with the rescue center, said. "Thankfully, other than being very confused and scared, he wasn't injured."
The square holes in a storm grate were not a great fit for the head of a young raccoon, and rescue workers labored for more than 2 hours before the trapped animal was freed, the New York Post reported. A bicyclist on their way to work in Newton, Massachusetts, reported the trapped raccoon to the local fire department; they tried unsuccessfully to release the raccoon by lathering it with slippery dish soap, according to NBC News. It wasn't until a veterinarian sedated the tense animal that its rescuers were finally able to slide its head back through the hole. Waltham Animal Control briefly held the raccoon for observation before releasing it back into the wild.
Originally published on Live Science.
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Mindy Weisberger is a Live Science editor for the channels Animals and Planet Earth. She also reports on general science, covering climate change, paleontology, biology, and space. Mindy studied film at Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.