06/13/2013 03:34 EDT | Updated 08/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Squirrel takes whirl in toilet; woman rescues rodent with barbecue tongs

WINNIPEG - A Manitoba woman got a nasty surprise this week when she awoke to a commotion in her bathroom.

When Angela Campbell went to investigate Wednesday morning, she was shocked to discover a live squirrel fighting for its life in her toilet.

"At first I thought it was a rat," she said. "I was kind of in shock and surprised."

Campbell kept her wits about her. She grabbed her barbecue tongs and fished out the critter.

"It wasn't putting up much of a fight. It was really weak," she said. "It was just kind of dazed."

Campbell put the squirrel in the bathtub and washed off the exhausted rodent using a bucket of water. It was a smelly and unpleasant job since the squirrel appeared to have brought up some sewage.

"It reeked," said the Winnipeg woman. "It was almost like it was smothered in mustard. It was so gross to the point where you are almost sick from the smell."

When the squirrel started to revive, Campbell used her trusty barbecue tongs and — after struggling a bit with the wriggling rodent — managed to carry it outside. As far as she knows, the squirrel survived.

"Later on, we noticed it found a spot up on our fence and was just kind of sitting there, cleaning itself off."

Campbell said the toilet lid was up, but she has no idea how the squirrel got into its watery prison. The experience has made her a bit more cautious when approaching the toilet — even tapping on a closed lid a few times before lifting it.

Campbell's story spread quickly Thursday and spawned its own twitter account @toiletsquirrel. Its first tweet: "Ever have one of those nights where you wake up soaking wet in a toilet and wonder what you did to lead you to that? #toiletsquirrelprobs"

Reports of squirrels appearing in toilets are rare, but not unheard of. In 2010, an Oklahoma woman called 911 when she found one splashing around. Police responded and called for backup to rescue the bedraggled animal.

Don Poulin, owner of Poulin's Pest Control in Winnipeg, said he has never been called out for a squirrel in a toilet. He said he doubts the bushy-tailed animal came in through the sewer or the venting pipe on the roof. More likely, Poulin said, it lived in the attic and went looking for water when it fell in.

Rats are much more likely to get in through the sewer, he said.

"(Squirrels) can swim, but they're not known to like the water ... I've never seen one out swimming."

Campbell said she isn't squeamish, so the sight of the struggling squirrel didn't send her screaming from the room.

"I did grow up in the country. I used to have rabbits," she said. "So it doesn't freak me out to attempt to help a wild animal."