For Owensboro Municipal Utilities, squirrels are public enemy No. 1.

Sonya Dixon, public relations and communications manager at OMU, says 30% of the utility’s power outages since June 1 have been caused by squirrels.

That damage cost OMU $20,000 for repairs.

And squirrels have accounted for six disruptions on OMU’s fibernet service during the same period, Dixon said.

One outage on Aug. 21 cost $20,000 to repair, she said.

Squirrels like to sharpen their teeth on utility lines, Dixon said.

“They are very destructive,” she said. “We have wildlife guards on our equipment, but squirrels are very difficult to keep out. They’re very stubborn and very innovative.”

Sometimes, chewing into a power line will electrocute a squirrel, Dixon said.

But sometimes, they get lucky.

And sometimes, they just cut into a line deep enough to let water in and finish the damage.

Nobody counts the number of squirrels in town.

But it’s believed to be in the thousands.

“We’re a city of trees,” Dixon said. “And squirrels love trees.”

The American Public Power Association says squirrels are No. 2 this year on its “Top Causes of Power Outages.”

Storms were No. 1.

The website said in June: “These furry menaces are reported to cause electrical damage by tunneling and chomping through electrical wires.”

It says, “The most significant number of outages was probably recorded in 2016. According to the American Public Power Association, there were about 3,456 squirrel-related power outages that cut off the electricity of more than 193,873 customers in 2016.”

The site says that eight human deaths in 2016 were attributed to outages caused by squirrels.

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301 .

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301

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