They look cute and cuddly with their big bushy tails as they bounce along power lines across the Seacoast. But they can also cause homes and entire neighborhoods to be plunged into darkness.

Unitil has declared the week of May 9 as its first “Squirrel Week”, with tips and information posted all week on its various social media platforms.

The critters are responsible for 8.5% of outages in Unitil's service areas, according to Unitil spokesman Alec O’Meara.

"We often share the cause of outages on our Twitter feed when they happen out there. When it's squirrel and animal contact, almost invariably we get back 'what? That's a thing?' Yes, absolutely we deal with it all the time. So we thought it would be fun to talk a little more about it," O'Meara told Seacoast Current.

Spring is the most active time of the year for squirrels as they look for food after winter.

“The reality is we operate in rural, heavily wooded areas, and outages related to animal contact from squirrels and other small creatures are something we contend with more often that the average person probably thinks," O'Meara said.

The company has already installed animal guards on its equipment to keep squirrels from snacking.

Homeowners can also keep an eye on the eaves of their homes to make sure they are blocked off correctly, O'Meara said. He said the electric infrastructure on the side of a house is not the target of squirrels, but rather the wires themselves.

As part of the campaign, Unitil plans to donate $500 to three wildlife conservation organizations:

  • Center for Wildlife, York/Cape Neddick
  • Mass Audubon Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary, Fitchburg, Mass.
  • Wildlife Heritage Foundation of New Hampshire

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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