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Chubby Rat Stuck in Manhole Cover Rescued by Fearless Firefighters

It took eight volunteer firefighters to pop the overweight rodent out of a vent in the sewer cover

(Berufstierrettung Rhein-Neckar )
smithsonian.com

In recent years, music, art and film have failed to capture the global zeitgeist. Instead, the hopes, dreams and disappointments of humanity have been best expressed by viral videos of our hungry rodent friends including Pizza Rat, Eggroll Squirrel, Bagel Rat and Milkshake Squirrel. Now, add to the list Chubby Manhole Rat, a precious little vermin whose penchant for hefty appetite, we assume, got him jammed in a manhole cover, leading to a rescue by a German volunteer fire department.

On Sunday, reports Rebecca Staudenmaier at Deutsche Welle, a male rat attempted to climb through a vent hole on a manhole cover in the town of Bensheim in the southwestern German state of Hesse. Normally, rats are very lithe, and able to squeeze through even the smallest of cracks and holes. But after a season of putting on Winterspeck, literally winter bacon, the chubby rodent couldn’t slip his hips through the hole, getting stuck without being able to pull himself forward or shimmy himself back down.

The distressed, squeaking little creature was discovered by two children, reports Allyson Chiu at The Washington Post. The local animal nonprofit Berufstierrettung Rhein-Neckar was contacted, and two rescuers were sent out despite the fact that the distressed animal was a sewer rat. “We don’t make any difference between animals,” spokesman for the group Andreas Steinbach says. “We don’t kill animals, we rescue them.”

Despite their best efforts, however, the rescuers were unable to pry the little beast loose and called in backup. That’s when things get surreal. The 8-member Auerbach volunteer fire brigade soon arrived on the scene wearing their firefighting gear and began a 25-minute rescue operation posted on YouTube. First they subdued the rat around the neck using a pole with a restraining loop at the end. Then, using large, black professional-looking wedges they popped up the heavy manhole cover and animal rescuer Michael Sehr was able to wiggle and work the portly little nibbler loose before releasing him back into the sewer.

Steinbach says the rat seemed to acknowledge the extraordinary effort to save it, though it is just one of 2,500 rescues his organization undertakes every year. “[It] took a small look back [as if to] say thank you very much, and yes, I know I have to do a diet,” he tells Chiu.

The children who first found the rat also thanked the firefighters with a handmade, rat-themed thank you card.

The internet, as expected, has fallen hard for the portly pest, with Twitter users declaring “We are all fat rat.” Staudenmeier at DW reports that German Fat Rat fans are pointing out that the rescue is in stark contrast to recent attempts in other cities, including Dortmund, to exterminate rats by placing poison baits in sewers.

Though Chubby Manhole Rat got stuck in a pretty public spot, Laura Geggel at LiveScience reports that sometimes rats underestimate their body size and it’s not that uncommon for fat rats to get stuck in holes. If they get stuck via the head or neck it can mean big trouble, but if they get stuck around their portly tummy and there’s no helpful volunteer fire department around, they can usually work themselves free, or just wait until they lose an ounce or two and pop themselves free.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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