We love squirrels AND we love electricity!

Imagine being able to jump the distance up to 10 times the length of your body, climb a tree with little effort or having front teeth that never stop growing. Those are just a few things you could do…if you were a squirrel. Speaking of squirrels, January 21 is recognized as National Squirrel Appreciation Day!

National Squirrel Appreciation Day started in 2001 and is meant to encourage kindness towards the bushy-tailed rodents that we so often ignore or forget about by setting out food and water for them.  A squirrel’s practice of burying nuts to eat later often results in the environmental benefit of the growth of new trees. This “accidental gardening” has contributed to countless trees in forests.

So how do squirrels impact you directly as a utility customer? You may have unknowingly experienced a power outage at your home or business caused by a squirrel! No, they are not unskilled electricians, but they do come in contact with our electric infrastructure quite often. This can result in an inconvenient power outage, not to mention what happens to the squirrel!

Squirrels are among the top causes of outages in the U.S. According to the American Public Power Association reports that in 2016, utilities from across the nation had a combined 3,456 power outages caused by squirrels affecting more than 193,873 customers. Trends show that incidents of squirrel-related outages increase in the spring and fall. Last year, more than 50,000 CPS Energy customers were affected by power outages caused by animals of all shapes and sizes.                                                                                             

Andrew Morawski, a home-schooled student took this photo of a local squirrel staying away from power lines as part of the Green Spaces Alliance’s Picture Your World youth photography program.  The program hosts in-school and weekend youth photography workshops in natural areas and culminates with a juried competition in May.

At CPS Energy, keeping your lights on is one of our main priorities. That’s why we are helping to protect both squirrels from danger and customers from power outages by taking preventative measures when it comes to our equipment. Our general standard regarding squirrels or other wildlife is to cover live parts of equipment to prevent wildlife from becoming part of the circuit. We use line covers/sleeves, and clam-shell type guards designed to protect wildlife along with several types of materials designed to prevent contact on distribution equipment like bushings and terminals.

All new electric service installations have these safeguards and can be added to older installations when identified as an issue or at risk.  In 2019, we installed 12,784 of the shell-type guards and 88,400 ft of covered “transformer” wire.

Taking steps to mitigate power outages has simultaneously benefitted wildlife. Although squirrels may not know it, we don’t only appreciate them on National Squirrel Appreciation Day, the installation of these devices show we appreciate them all year long!

John Moreno

John is part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.

John Moreno

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