Next time your home or office has a blackout, there’s a good chance you can blame a squirrel. Tens of thousands of outages are caused every year by suicidal squirrels being where they shouldn’t be.
Many power companies even place special “squirrel guards” on their equipment to try to diminish the problem.
The squirrels either chew on the power lines, accidentally cause shortcuts in power equipment or mangle themselves into transformer boxes looking for food. Neither of these alternatives are a particularly good idea, and all end with a fried critter and a power outage.
We here at Pingdom have written about power outages before. It’s a factor that lies behind a lot of downtime on the internet, and there are many strange causes for outages (for example gunshots and raccoons), but squirrels seem to be in a league of their own.
Here are some notable examples:
Nasdaq shut down TWICE by squirrels (1987 and 1994)
The flaming squirrel that blew up a car (2007)
A squirrel chewed on a power line, was set on fire and fell out of the blue into a car, where it slid into the engine compartment and blew up the car. You can’t make this stuff up.
Squirrel outage messed up traffic lights in Toronto (2007)
Toronto traffic lights were affected by yet another power outage caused by a curious squirrel, tying up city traffic. The outage also hit the financial district.
Boil water alert in Fort Worth… another squirrel to blame (2008)
After two water pump stations were disabled due to a squirrel-induced outage, Fort Worth Water Department was forced to tell their customers to boil their water for safe consumption.
Ill-fated squirrel knocked out power in six cities (1999)
A squirrel knocked out a California East Bay substation, which in turn made three other substations shut down, cutting power to PG&E customers in six cities.
Many, MANY other examples
There are numerous (practically endless) of other examples. A regular Google search for “squirrel outage” shows more than 90,000 results.
Other small critters and birds can cause similar problems, but it seems that the natural curiosity and stubbornness of the squirrels make them a bit extra… suicidal. You’d almost be excused for thinking that Mother Nature has staged a frontal assault on the power grid using squirrels as kamikaze foot soldiers.
Squirrel image courtesy of Wikipedia.