HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Squirrels are one of the biggest threats to the Valley’s electrical infrastructure.
Huntsville Utilities director of communications Joe Gehrdes said there were 260 power outages caused by squirrels, 54 caused by birds, and eight caused by “other wildlife" in 2018.
Gehrdes estimated there were 1,200 outages for the year in total, meaning animals (with 322 outages) made up roughly a fourth of the damage.
“Animals aren’t really a surprising nuisance for us, it’s just a fact of doing business in the electric industry,” he said.
Gehrdes said squirrels will climb up power poles and come in contact with two pieces of electric equipment. The squirrels body would then become a conductor for the energy, electrocuting the squirrel and damaging the components.
“You’ll hear a big ‘pow’ and usually that’ll knock the power out,” he said.
It’s unclear how much the 322 repairs cost customers, but Gehrdes said all outages are factored into utility rates.
He said the utility company is taking steps to prevent the outages, but can go only go so far.
“There’s equipment that’s meant as a counter measure to the squirrels, but they foil that as well. Squirrels are very curious creatures and they like to climb on things in search of food, and they oftentimes will be in the wrong place in the wrong time,” Gehrdes said.
Squirrels aren’t alone in causing the damage, Gehrdes said there was one scenario where a snake knocked out all of south Huntsville’s power for nearly two hours.
He said the leading causes of power outages include storms and car collisions into poles.