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The Critter War

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By: Larry Galloway

As strange as it may seem, wild critters are a serious and escalating problem that electrical utilities continually battle. Squirrels, raccoons, opossums, snakes, and birds have caused more bizarre electrical outages, blinks, surges and service interruptions than the public would believe possible. And trying to put a stop to the problem is not only expensive, but nearly impossible.

The critter situation has become a war — and the critters are winning. As subdivisions invade what was once natural habitat, more and more wildlife ends up with human neighbors. And that inquisitive wildlife is stirring up trouble by turning power lines into highways or power poles into perches.

Some squirrels have developed a taste for insulation on wires or even gnaw on the wire itself, resulting in crispy critters and lots of mad consumers.

Large birds using poles as a perch can also cause problems, as do raccoons, opossums, and even snakes that have crawled into substations and shorted out equipment affecting thousands of consumers.

While weather continues as the leading cause of power interruptions, approximately 30 percent of Wiegress Electric’s total outages are critter-caused in some way.

The Co-Op has spent thousands of dollars on devices to thwart critters from special insulators to banding  poles. But there is basically nothing squirrels can’t get by. And when they unwittingly touch a live wire — it’s lights out, both for Wiregrass Electrical consumers and the bushytail.

For Wiregrass Electric’s employees, critters make every day an adventure, from the serviceman dealing with the family dog protecting his turf to the lineman who just discovered a hornet’s net attached to a transformer he’s working on. WEC’s field workers have to deal with bee, wasp, and hornet stings, spider and tick bites — and even fire ants that invade underground transformers. And let’s not forget wild animals flushed out by right-of-way crews.

Who would think about a raccoon causing a serious power outage? Believe me, critter outages are a problem that we continually have to deal with in providing you with dependable service!

But regardless of what causes your power to go off, we rush to get it back on as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we can’t control either the weather or critters when they threaten your power service.