01 May 2020

Evidence of a Grinch

There is a woods behind my house.  Just for fun I decided to decorate one of the balsam firs with strings of solar-powered Christmas lights.  "For the critters."

It was quite pleasant in the dark nights of midwinter to look out the window and see a solitary tree deep in the woods all aglow with lights.

Then one of the strings went dark.  Later a second one as well.  I decided the snowpack had covered the solar collectors, but there was no way I was going to slog through the snow to correct a problem that would just recur.  So I waited for the snowmelt.

Imagine my surprise when I got out there in March to see a strand of lights severed (top photo).  Quite a clean cut, really, so that for a moment I wondered if some Grinchy human had taken a dislike to the display.  But then I found another strand, where the wires were twisted, and the cut was not as clean as a wire-cutter or scissors would accomplish:

So my suspicions pivoted to the local rodents.  We have lots of chipmunks and grey squirrels, the latter the more active species in wintertime. 

But it wasn't until I got started with my proper garden cleanup in April that I found beneath the leaf litter under the tree a bunch of bulbs that had been individually severed from the strings:

I'm a little puzzled.  I understand that urban rats are infamous for chewing through electrical cords and ducts in apartment and office buildings, and that this activity is attributed to their need to gnaw something with their ever-growing teeth.  I'm not sure if the same principle would apply here, or is it possible that the chewing is being done to extract some mineral/salt etc from the plastic-coated wiring??  The bulb bases don't appear to be gnawed, so that would suggest that the metal wire was the goal rather than the plastic.

I wonder whether any reader has had similar experience with Christmas lights or security lights.  All comments welcome.


  1. Somebody harvesting pine cones to store for a rainy day?

  2. We had a similar experience last Christmas with a squirrel. It chewed into a heavy duty outdoor extension cord and got electrocuted.

  3. We had a squirrel who would chew through outdoor christmas lights in Ontario.

  4. Pretty sure the insulation or the wire is their goal, not the bulbs or sockets. When my parents lived in a remote area they kept losing internet because critters chewed the cables. The varmints were quite specific, too. Only those cables. A repair tech claimed it was the color (orange) of the insulation.

  5. Maybe the lights were keeping them awake.

  6. (Except for the COVID quarantine) I'm often away from my house for a week or two at a time. I've come back and found that wood rats had got in and had a party, chewed up my microphone cords (!), chewed open the dish detergent bottle, vitamin bottles, shredded toilet paper in the bathroom, which they carried away to make nests in the bric-a-brac drawer under the bed. They ate half a bar of soap.

    Outside, they get up inside your car's engine compartment, ruin wiring, store plant waste and acorns between the valve covers.

    They scrabble scrabble-marks next to the sliders on my audio mixing board; they want to get in there. They've eaten holes in my basket of dirty clothes --ruined my best black Levis.

    Yeah, they like wires, for some reason, but they also like everything else, the little bastards. I hate them. But I live in a rural wooded area and they are animals and they're just animaling.

    Come to think of it, they never get /on/ my bed, except in a bad dream.

  7. it cost my wife about $500 to repair some wires in the engine compartment of her car .... damn squirrel

  8. Rats like to collect things, that's where the term pack rat came from. Maybe other rodents do, too.

    1. Pack rat species' are pretty prevalent in the Minnesota-Wisconsin area as well.

  9. Probably soy based plastic wiring. Rodents are causing thousands of dollars in damages to the soy based wiring in newer cars. It's so bad lawyers are filing Class Action lawsuits against several car companies.

  10. I had the exact same thing. Put up three strings on the tree outside my house and the next day all three of them had been chewed through and there were bulbs all over the ground. Never figured out what did it.

    This was the fourth year I had the same lights up, but the first time it happened.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...