'Snowball' - The White Kitty Ensnared by Son of Tree of Terror

(mid February 2016)

Executive Summary

Snowball was stuck overnight 50 ft up a tree in Louisville MS before I was able to rescue him. This is my second rescue of Snowball, the first time was in November 2015 when he was 50 ft up the Tree of Terror, a skinny, wiggly tree that scared the bejeezus out of me. This time, he was 50 ft up Son of Tree of Terror, the skinnier, wigglier tree right next to it! A highline was used to get near enough to Snowball to rescue him. Total rescue time was 4.5 hours (1 hour of travel).


It was about 9:00 pm on a Friday night, and I was still enjoying the warm glow of a successful, easy kitty rescue earlier that day. I was composing an email to my two fellow cat rescuer heroes (www.catrescueguy.com and www.rescuemycat.org) bragging about my rescue, and how I was planning on setting up a DIFFICULT rescue training scenario the next day since this one was so easy. God was listening to my bragging, and decided to do something about it. After hitting the send key on the email, I noticed a couple of text messages on the Kat Fone. My eyes crossed and a hairball formed in my stomach upon reading the text messages, which were from Susan, owner of Snowball, the White Kitty Ensnared by the Tree of Terror, who I rescued in November 2015. Snowball was now stuck in Son of Tree of Terror (the skinnier, wigglier tree next to TOT), at the same height. I texted Susan back, and said that I would be there at about 11:00 am the next day. I also began recruiting help, as I knew the rescue would be difficult. I first tried Ben E., the fellow climber who helped on the previous Snowball rescue, but he had a prior engagement. I then tried Jim H., and old and dear friend who had joined me on the Lila rescue, and he agreed to help out. I tossed and turned that night going over rescue options, and decided to try a highline approach since it was clear that I would not be able to climb the tree. A highline is an approach used by arborists to trim trees that they cannot climb directly. It is a rope strung between two neighboring trees, which they use to traverse to the target tree. It is like a zipline, but it is level as possible instead of angled.

Jim H. and I arrived at 11:00 am the next day, and it was easy to spot poor Snowball, who looked like he was barely hanging on, spread across some very spindly limbs. I immediately began looking for candidate trees to string the highline between, and chose two pine trees that were about 80 feet apart. I installed a 200 foot rope in one tree at about 50 feet, and then a second 200 foot second rope in the second target tree. I initially thought that I might have to connect the ropes together, but one 200 foot rope was just long enough for the task. I put a hitch climber pulley attached to a 120 foot rope on the highline, and then Jim H. and I started tensioning the highline. I had initially planned to tension the highline with a Come-Along that I had dug out of my workshop, but I had not realized that it was frozen and broken. So, we used my F-150 pickup truck to tension the line as tightly as we dared. We had done an excellent job of positioning the highline; the tensioned line was pulled up to the same height as Snowball and very near to him. However, we discovered that my weight on the climbing line still pulled the highline down by about 8 feet. We tried tensioning the line some more, but my pickup truck's tires started spinning after we pulled about another foot of slack out of the rope, so I had to go with that tension. I had somewhat hoped that I might be able to grab Snowball instead of using the rescue pole, but that was not to be.

I soon was as high as I could go on my climbing rope, and still several feet below Snowball. I started the frustrating task of trying to snag Snowball with the rescue pole. Limbs around Snowball hindered my efforts, but I finally able to position the hoop up around one leg, with the pole wedged between Snowball and the stem. Snowball's other back leg was on a spindly limb, and he had his front legs over another small limb. I started shaking the tree and pushing up on the pole to move Snowball's other back leg off of the limb, and it finally worked - I had Snowball snagged firmly around his middle. I started lowering him as I had a clear path to the ground. However about 20 feet down, the webbing loop I used as a safety line on the pole became snagged on a small twig jutting from the trunk, and then Snowball grabbed onto the trunk. With a few tugs and some naughty language, I was finally able to free Snowball of obstructions and lower him to the ground. Susan was waiting with the net, and with the help of Jim H., was able to release Snowball from the hoop once he was securely in the net. I came down, and Susan was petting/loving on Snowball while he was still in the net, calming him. It was working, as Snowball was soon purring up a storm! I thought about trying to install some tin around the two TOTs, but there was a whole family of TOTs around the area so keeping two TOTs from ensnaring Snowball would not do much good. In the end, I decided to cross my fingers and hope that Snowball learned his lesson.

Many thanks to Jim H. for your great help on this rescue! And Susan, thanks for the support on the ground and the pictures.