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Updated: May 24, 2024

'Squirrel Week' is no laughing matter for this utility company

Squirrel Week social media image Image / Courtesy, Unitil Unitil's "Squirrel Week" campaign seeks to raise awareness about rodents wreaking havoc on power lines.

Unitil Corp. (NYSE: UTL), a New Hampshire-based utility with presence in Maine, is taking on the squirrels — at least the rebellious rodents who wreak havoc on power lines.

The crafty critters are statistically shown to do most damage this time of year by gnawing on lines, building nests within equipment and sneaking into unwanted areas, causing 11% of power outages within Unitil’s service area.

Animal contact as a whole accounts for around 14% of system outages, according to the company.

To raise awareness of squirrel-related dangers, Unitil has been getting the word out over the past few days via the company's third annual “Squirrel Week” social media campaign. Posts on Facebook, Instagram and X show a squirrel perched on a utility pole, sharp claws at the ready.

The campaign, which wraps up today, is meant to warn the public about the dangers that occur when squirrels interfere with electric lines. Besides disrupting power and causing other problems for humans, the animals risk being injured or killed. 

For Unitil, the issue is not as significant in Maine, where the utility's presence is limited to 35,000 natural gas customers. (Unitil also has 60 employees in Maine.)

'Safety first'

“We share some statistics, some of the tools and animal guard types we use and  talk about the ways in which squirrels can use trouble,” Alec O’Meara, a spokesman for Unitil, told Mainebiz, noting that feedback so far has been positive.

“While we do use standard media measuring tools to look at things like engagement, we believe any campaign that creates opportunities to talk with customers about energy issues in a lighthearted way is successful," he explained. "Squirrel Week is a fun way for us to talk about the importance of system reliability outside of storms.”    

As part of the campaign, Unitil will donate $500 each to three nonprofits, including the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick.

O’Meara’s safety advice for businesses: “We are sharing some of the animal guards we use on our social channels, but businesses should leave any work on utility lines to their local providers. Safety first!”

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