Squirrels are the primary offenders in a series of power outages affecting Austin, Texas, residents. A single squirrel recently triggered a blackout for nearly 1,000 people in the northwest part of the city, as per a KXAN report. These incidents are part of a larger pattern where animals inadvertently cause power failures by coming into contact with electric infrastructure.
Last week, close to 4,000 Austin residents lost power when a squirrel interfaced with a transformer pole. Austin Energy revealed the problem, stating that "Any animal can cause a power outage when one part of the animal is touching a power line and another part is touching a piece of equipment such as a power pole," in a statement to KXAN.
With colder weather, animals like squirrels search for warmth and often find it among Austin's electrical components. Jill Calcote from Moonshine Wildlife Rehabilitation told KXAN that urban development is forcibly integrating wildlife into residential spaces, sometimes causing electrifying consequences.
Both PEC and Austin Energy are proactively attempting to thwart such wildlife disruptions by installing plastic guards on poles, yet as CBS Austin notes, "Even with special animal guards on equipment, unfortunately, there is no absolute way to protect all electrical equipment from animal contact." These efforts reflect the challenge of maintaining reliable power in the face of persistent wildlife interference.
Homeowners looking to spare themselves from outages can take precautions such as inspecting for potential animal entry points, trimming back tree branches near homes, and using deterrents like cinnamon or peppermint, which are not favored by squirrels. Calcote's recommendations are aimed at minimizing the likelihood of your property being a conduit for the next blackout.