Squirrels


Back to...
Outage Menu
Animal Menu
Substations
Overhead Devices
Conductors

Squirrels, squirrels, everywhere ... and all the lights are out again. Hard as it is to believe, this bright-eyed, nimble-footed ball of fur is responsible for millions of dollars of damage and lost revenue. Squirrels are a problem in virtually every part of the country and virtually every part of an electric power system. Utilities have been searching for an effective squirrel deterrent almost from the time the first power lines were constructed.

Finding an effective deterrent depends on understanding what makes squirrels such a problem in the first place. Squirrels have certain instinctive behavior that almost guarantees unpleasant confrontations with utility equipment. Long ago, squirrels learned that staying off the ground was the best way to enjoy a long and prosperous life. While they are often seen scampering across the street or through the yard, squirrels spend most of their time in the trees. With single-minded determination, they follow their daily routes through the trees. Should a house, a fence, a substation, or a utility pole suddenly appear in their path, rather than change their route, squirrels will use these man-made structures as substitute trees without hesitation. Obviously, it will not take long before squirrels, using utility equipment as overhead highways, form a "fatal attraction" with an energized device.

This apparent compulsion to follow their established routes helps explain to bewildered engineers why they may have a chronic problem with squirrels in some parts of the system and not in others. If a utility, by chance, happens to install poles and conductors so they do not infringe on the resident squirrels' existing routes, more than likely the utility will never have a problem with outages no matter how many squirrels and trees are in the area. Which isn't to say that they might not have squirrel-caused outages every other week just one street over where the equipment was not so fortunately placed.

Unfortunately for utilities, leading experts in squirrel behavior state emphatically that "A squirrel's gotta do what a squirrel's gotta do." In other words, rather than change their routes, squirrels will eventually find their way over, under, around, or through any barrier placed in their path. This news is not as bad as it may seem at first. It simply means instead of wasting time trying to keep squirrels off the conductors, poles, and substations, we concentrate on protecting the equipment.

Most people would admit that the little guy in the photo to the left is rather appealing and there is no denying that squirrels can be very amusing. They can distinguish the color red from blue and, in some tests, seem to have a distinct adversion to red objects (perhaps related to their fierce competition with red-headed woodpeckers). Like humans, they are right-handed or left-handed. Their entertaining antics often result in the instllation of a backyard feeding station by an appreciative audiance. Unfortunately, some consumers who suffer the most from repeated outages actually contribute to them by feeding squirrels.

As appealing and entertaining as one or two squirrels can be, imagine walking out into the backyard and seeing 500 squirrels scampering around. Scary thought... but every 20 years or so, huge populations of squirrels migrate for reasons known only to themselves. These mass migrations have been documented for over 200 years.

In the late 1960s, an estimated 20 million squirrels migrated south along the east coast. Like lemmings, these squirrels ignored every obstacle in their path. Hundreds of thousands drowned trying to cross rivers and lakes; even more died along highways and railroad tracks. Fity-five tons of drowned squirrels were removed from a resevoir in New York. Experts admit that the usual explanations of overpopulation and food shortages are not satisfactory, and no one knows exactly what triggers these migrations. Utilities in the northeast reported an "explosion" in squirrel-caused outages in the late 1980s, more than likely the result of the latest mass migration. Make a note.. . according to our calendar, we're about due for another invasion.

There are suggestions and products to help, so make a selection for the list below and we will try to solve your squirrel problem before it drives you nuts.


Back to...
Outage Menu
Animal Menu
Substations
Overhead Devices
Conductors