Things will be getting a little squirrely at Unitil this week as the utility company launches its 2nd Annual “Squirrel Week” social media campaign to bring attention to the danger these furry friends pose to electric infrastructure and their own safety.
The week-long campaign kicked off on May 22 and highlights many of the hazards created by squirrels and the steps that are taken to help protect them from power lines and other equipment they often come into contact with during their most active times of the year.
According to Unitil, squirrels are a significant threat to utility operations and were the cause of 11.5% of power outages in Unitil’s service territory last year. They are known to chew on lines, build their nests on equipment, and scurry into places where they don’t belong. When they interfere with electric lines and equipment, squirrels can cause damage and disrupt power. They can also be harmed or even killed.
While squirrels are a common wildlife problem for utilities with squirrel-related power outages peaking during the springtime, other critters can also wreak havoc. Most recently, Unitil experienced an outage that affected approximately 2,000 customers in Hampton after a raccoon made contact in a substation.
“We’ve taken a proactive approach by installing animal guards and protective gear on equipment, but we all know that wildlife can be both sneaky and persistent, and sometimes animals find ways around these safety measures,” says Unitil External Affairs Manager Alec O’Meara. “Since we live in the most forested region of the country, we have to expect some unfortunate encounters with squirrels and other small creatures. It happens more often than people think and ‘Squirrel Week’ is one way to really highlight the issue and the efforts that are made to keep people and animals safe.”
As part of the campaign, Unitil will donate $500 to each of the following wildlife conservation organizations: Center for Wildlife, York/Cape Neddick, Maine; Mass Audubon Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary, Fitchburg, Mass.; and Wildlife Heritage Foundation of NH.
For more information on “Squirrel Week,” follow Unitil on Facebook and Twitter @Unitil.