16 January 2008

Squirrel power (well, sort of)

The death of a single East Texas squirrel was broadcast far and wide this week, but it was less a sentimental obituary for a solitary rodent than a big news item.

Before he or she died, the squirrel had curtailed water service, shut off electricity, and forced the closing of schools in two area districts.

In all, more than a thousand utility customers were affected. The squirrel, sorry to say, got into a power substation in Big Sandy, about 100 miles east of Dallas, and did what rodents do: gnawed on the lines, a fatal mistake.

KLTV in Tyler, KWTX in Waco, KRIS in Corpus Christi and KXXV in Waco all told this story.

The media carries these items regularly, only the datelines change. In November of last year, the story played out in Ashland, Wisconsin, where two squirrels were killed along with the power. And Christmas morning was darkened in Chico, Calif., by yet another squirrel. Last month, it was Kennebunk, Maine.

One would think the utility companies might have caught on by now. If they don't care to avoid squirrel electrocutions (and presumably they don't) they might want to consider squirrel-proofing their facilities and even some of their power lines anyway. I am told there are actually such devices as "squirrel guards." Yes, it's a humane gesture and probably an expensive one at that, at least to outfit a good chunk of a power system, but on the up side of the equation, it would certainly help keep the lights on more often, thus bring a steadier and happier glow to their customers.

Yes and to us squirrel-lovers too.


Kathleen Mortensen said...

I just discovered you at the Dog House blog and I'm happy I did! I live in a town in Southern Ontario and have a nice little city backyard chock a block with squirrels and other wildlife. We've been in this house since 2001 and have been catering to those squirrels since day one! Their very first introduction to our presence was homemade pita sandwiches with peanut butter and apples cut into triangles and thrown out on the porch. The word spread! We have our regulars who come for peanuts (shelled and not) and any other squirrel friendly things we can find. We have names for them too. In the first year, we divided the grays and the blacks into the Wallendas and the Jacksons. We have since gained fame to the Waterloo Browns and the Turbo Reds. We love 'em all!
Check out my blog for a post entitled Ravenous Rodents and you'll find my poem Rococo Squirrels. I think you'll enjoy it.

Kathleen Mortensen said...

Don't mean to monopolize this posting, but I had to tell you about our latest big guy who comes to my backdoor every day. He is far and away the largest squirrel we've ever seen. He's a grey fellow with short, squat ears, but he has an enormous rear end. He puts the sumos to shame! We call him Orson. I'm poised to produce a new poem entitled "Orson Swells". Watch for it!

squirrelmama said...

Orson Swells!! Oh that is too perfect! (And yes, a large squirrel hiney is surely a sight to behold, as well as to be-HIND!)
I wonder if Orson Swells likes a little Paul Masson with his walnuts. As the commercial used to say: "We will crack no nuts before their time."

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

"Squirrel Proofing"? A great idea but is it really possible. Can anything really keep the intelligent rodent out?

I am reminded about this saying, "Nothing is fool-proof cause it turns out the fools can be quite ingenious."

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Ooops. Meant to comment on the Orson Swells squirrel. I had a fat young squirrel in my backyard circus once who actually sits on his bum instead of his haunches. My wife said he looked like a statue of a prosperous Buddha. I wanter to say that he looked like a Ball of Fur but it came out of my mouth as Bur. He was thus named, "Buddha-Bur".

squirrelmama said...

You got me there, LGS. I'm remembering that I myself once described "squirrel proof" as a contradiction in terms.

my backyard said...

It's hard to squirrel-proof anything for the long run. Those wily fuzzytails are ingenious.

Kathleen Mortensen said...

"Orson Swells" is now posted at Poetikat's. Come on by for a bit of a laugh.
Re: squirrel-proofing
The only sort we do is to keep them well fed and thus not as keen on the bird's food.
Then there was the time my husband went into the shed and made a load of noises like some demented Wile. E. Coyote (think ACME and repetitive mood music) and came out with a length of rubber tubing attached to an upturned bundt-cake pan with a length of bunjee cord strung through. It's so much fun to see the squirrels slide off the funnel. Mighty Mouse, The Red Squirrel with arms of steel, hangs on by his front claws and eats Marine-style.

Anonymous said...

Why fret because a system (i.e., squirrel proofing) won't be 100% effective?

Consider traffic lights and how many people run them and the accidents caused. Think how worse it would be without a traffic light system.

If squirrel proofing helps, then it's a blessing.


squirrelmama said...

Right you are on that, Chet. I think I am still somehow seeking perfection in an imperfect world and well, that just isn't going to happen in my lifetime. So let's go for the best life-saving percentages we can.