And now: the latest in Bay Area squirrel headlines. Squirrel causes power outage at San Jose State University. Also, Squirrel nearly burns down Menlo Park home. Do you notice a pattern? 

It can be incendiary news when squirrels do dramatic damage to human property. The attack on San Jose State last Wednesday shut down that campus for a day.

Should we be afraid of killer squirrels on the loose in the San Francisco Bay Area? No, says Captain Daniel Vega, Public Information Officer for the San Jose Fire Department.

Captain Vega assures us that squirrels aren’t trying to incinerate humans. In fact, it typically goes the other way ’round, with the little critters electrocuted after one bite. But that is a fire concern, too. If the animal were to actually catch on fire, then wherever their body lay, there would be a fire risk,” Vega says.

So why do squirrels chew through power cables? Animal behaviorists say rodents in general are always looking for new food sources or nesting material — and squirrels in particular often look for those goodies in and around trees. Which tend to be near — you guessed it — power lines.

“Squirrels are essentially parrots without wings,” says Dr. Joseph Garner, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

Garner adds, “We don’t do a good job of appreciating how human environments look to other animals, and how we might inadvertently attract other animals into the spaces we create.”

In other words, it’s our own darn fault squirrels find power cables attractive: they’re naturally curious, adaptable and keen for a challenge. The trouble is, they don’t grasp the inherent dangers they face living in proximity to people.

Along those lines, here’s an ad for a Canadian beer that shows a squirrel demonstrating impressive agility and mental flexibility traversing a human-designed obstacle course:

The Incendiary Attraction Between Squirrels and Power Lines 8 January,2018Rachael Myrow


Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow is KQED’s Silicon Valley Arts Reporter, covering arts, culture and technology in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. She regularly files stories for NPR and the KQED podcast Bay Curious, and guest hosts KQED’s Forum.

Her passion for public radio was born as an undergrad at the University of California at Berkeley, writing movie reviews for KALX-FM. After finishing one degree in English, she got another in journalism, landed a job at Marketplace in Los Angeles, and another at KPCC, before returning to the Bay Area to work at KQED.

She spent more than seven years hosting The California Report, and over the years has won a Peabody and three Edward R. Murrow Awards (one for covering the MTA Strike, her first assignment as a full-time reporter in 2000 as well as numerous other honors including from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television News Directors Association and the LA Press Club.
Follow @rachaelmyrow

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