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The power-ful effect of squirrels

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Digital writers
theweathernetwork.com

Saturday, October 19, 2013, 9:18 AM -

We're used to blackouts caused by storms or flooding, but what about squirrels? 

The tiny mammals are actually a common cause of massive blackouts. 

In 1987, a squirrel shut down the Nasdaq for 82 minutes, and another left more than 10,000 customers without power in Wichita, Kansas. 

The animal usually causes the blackout by running across electrical equipment and simultaneously touching an energized component and a grounded piece of equipment, completing the circuit. 

But chewing can also be an issue. Squirrels chew threw wiring because they are constantly teething. In fact, an adult squirrel's incisors never stop growing. The flat tops of transformers are also commonly used by squirrels to rest upon and warm up. 

In some parts of Ontario, squirrels are responsible for up to two-thirds of the outages. One of the reasons, squirrels are so problematic is due to the high density populations that live aside human beings. Squirrels are North America's most successful synanthropes, the name given to species able to share the same area as humans. 

But it's not just squirrels affecting the electricity. Birds and raccoons are also common culprits. 

In Kitchener, new equipment includes special measure to prevent squirrel-related short circuits. Wires are usually insulated or distanced from other equipment to avoid the tiny animal from touching both at the same time.

More than $300,000 have been spent in the region to avoid this sort of incidents.

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The sinister animal behind the blackouts?

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