How are squirrels wreaking havoc for power utilities?
Fallen trees, snow, rain and ice are common causes of power outages, but squirrels can also cause major problems for Maritime power utilities.
The furry rodents are responsible for about five per cent of outages in Nova Scotia.
“Chewing wires or making contact between our pole and electrical equipment and that would cause a short circuit and cause the power to trip off,” says Paul Casey, director of transmission and distribution for Nova Scotia Power.
In New Brunswick, nearly eight per cent of outages in 2013 were caused by wildlife.
“We had a squirrel get into our substation in St. George yesterday morning,” says NB Power spokesperson Meghan Gerrish.
“It caused a power interruption for about 2,200 customers for approximately four hours.”
Squirrels can also be a nuisance on Prince Edward Island. In April 2009, nearly 55,000 Islanders were affected when a squirrel got into a substation.
A spokesperson for Maritime Electric says it chewed the wires, causing a fire, explosion and $200,000 worth of damage.
The issue extends beyond the Maritimes and right across North America. Last summer, more than 10,000 people in Kansas were left in the dark after a squirrel caused a fire in a substation.
The entire city of Tampa, Florida was forced into a boil order last year when squirrels caused a power failure at the city’s water treatment plant.
Casey says the other challenge with power outages caused by wildlife is that they can be difficult to find.
“Our crews are out sometimes at night looking for the cause of the outage,” says Casey. “They don’t want to restore the power without knowing the cause of the outage, so if it was an animal, odds are the animal is gone and they’re hard to find so they can cause long outages as well.”
Many utilities use animal guards on equipment in problem areas to prevent wildlife from getting into the area. Others coat the wires to prevent rodents from chewing them.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jacqueline Foster