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Can Squirrels Damage Your Electrical System?

Spring is in the air, which means “busy season” for many critters. Birds are nesting, squirrels are foraging, gophers are burrowing – which can all be bad news for your home’s electrical equipment!     
What Types of Animals Can Damage Your Home’s Electrical System? 

Rural and urban communities alike coexist with many types of wild animals, creating situations where they may interfere with the complex electrical system of your home and your electrical utility’s power equipment running to it. Here are a few common culprits: 


Squirrels are chewers – their teeth never stop growing so they must continuously whittle them down. Combined with their exquisite climbing and balancing abilities, power lines (ground wires, main lines, transformer box wiring, etc.) often fall victim to their gnawing.  

Mice & Rats 

Rodents such as mice and rats are unwelcome pests when it comes to your home, and especially within your electrical system. Just like squirrels, mice and rats have ever-growing teeth that cause their chewing behavior. Unlike squirrels, these rodents are more likely to interfere with the electrical equipment inside your home rather than outside.  

Rodents can cause wiring damage hidden in your walls, under attic insulation, and within your subpanel where they often nest. They can also chew on electrical cords attached to appliances and electronics in your home which can cause short circuits. 


While less common, gophers can wreak havoc on underground electrical equipment. While digging tunnels under your property, they can destroy electrical equipment, gnaw on wiring, and even fill underground transformer boxes with dirt! 


Another less common culprit is birds. While seeking the perfect spot for a nest, birds can find their way into meter boxes, under your roof, and in your attic. They may pull out and damage electrical wiring in the process and nesting materials are usually very flammable, making a recipe for disaster. 

How Dangerous is Wildlife Damage to Electrical Equipment? 

The damage caused by chewing, nesting, and burrowing animals can be quite dangerous, resulting in: 

  • Voltage spikes, brownouts, and dangerous power quality: damaged utility equipment can affect the power quality being delivered to homes.  
  • Power outages: in your home, or even your entire neighborhood (last year, nearly 1,000 people were left without power in Austin, TX after a squirrel made contact with equipment on a transformer pole!) 
  • Tripped breakers and short circuiting  
  • Electrical fires: damaged or exposed wiring can overheat and spark a fire. 

How Do You Know if Critters are Causing Damage? 

There are a few signs you can look for that indicate you may have a critter problem before a hazardous situation has a chance to develop. 

  • Flickering lights or strange behavior from appliances or HVAC system 
  • Rodent droppings near wiring runs and outlets 
  • Scratching and squeaking sounds behind walls  
  • Scurrying or bird chirping noises in attic 
  • Nesting materials near wires or in electrical equipment 
  • Visible bite marks on wires for devices or appliances 
  • Gopher holes in yard near electrical equipment 
  • Increased squirrel activity around power lines 

Squirrel damage is often not noticeable since it occurs high up in overhead wires. Mitigation usually requires your local utility company to repair or replace the power line. Damage inside your home from rodents or birds can be costly. It may require an electrician to remove & replace damaged wiring and possibly an exterminator to take care of the infestation. 

How Can You Prevent Critters from Damaging Your Home’s Electrical System? 

While many utility companies have taken measures to prevent electrical damage from wildlife such as installing “critter guards” on equipment, homeowners play an important part in prevention too: 

  • Keep your trees trimmed: branches near power lines or your roof provide an easy route for squirrels and rodents 
  • Set bird feeders away from power lines: this helps keep critter activity away from electrical equipment 
  • Protect your wires: cover exposed wires with plastic or steel conduits, or even upgrade to rodent-resistant braided sleeving 
  • Practice rodent prevention in your home: seal off entry points, keep food (especially pet food) secure, and keep trashcans sealed 
  • Report any nests: if you see a nest close to electrical equipment or increased squirrel activity on power lines, call your local utility 

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