Red squirrels have chewed down again and taken hundreds of dollars worth of festive lights from a neighborhood in Ottawa, making ghosts not so bright this Christmas.
Why the bol bandits do it, however, remains a mystery.
It started last year when Michael and Sarah McCabe, as they have done for the past three decades, hung three strings of 150 lights from their fence in Manor Park. A few weeks after the start of December, the screen mysteriously went dark.
When they examined it, the McCabes found that the wires had been chewed through and that several spheres had disappeared.
“We’re trying to figure out what they’re doing with the bulbs because they cut the wire on both ends and we can’t find them anywhere,” said Michael McCabe.
This year, assuming the squirrels had objected to the lights above the fence because it disrupted their backyard ‘highway’, the McCabes moved the lights to their back deck.
But before this December even hit, the rodents disappeared with more bulbs – worth about $ 200.
A few houses away, Bob Porter has had the same costly problem.
‘I just changed the strings two days ago. Heaven forbid they chew it again, ”Porter said.
There are several theories as to why the squirrels seem determined to stop the arrival of Christmas.
While the mischievous rodents have no preference for a particular color, they have indicated a preference for LED lights manufactured for Canadian retailers by the Chinese company Ting Shen – the same lights that the McCabes started using last year.
But at least one shopkeeper said he was unaware of the problem.
“This is the first time we’ve received customer feedback about squirrels damaging Christmas lights,” wrote Meghan Furman, a Home Hardware spokesperson, where the McCabes bought their lights. “We take all customer concerns seriously and are investigating this unusual incident.”
Porter purchased his Ting Shen-made lamps, marketed under the Noma brand, from Canadian Tire.
“I feel their pain,” said Bill Dowd, a former Ottawa 67 hockey player who started Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control after hanging his skates.
Dowd’s company also installs seasonal lighting and is often asked to replace bulbs stolen by red squirrels.
One theory suggests that squirrels are drawn to the dumplings because they are tasty.
“Would you believe that the plastic insulation covering various electrical wires is based on soy?” Police in Plainfield, Illinois, recently posted an attempt to explain the phenomenon before civilians call to report the vandalism.
Rodents are also accused of testing the flavor of the bioplastic insulation used in modern car wiring.
“They’re wired to try new things,” explained Ottawa naturalist Dan Brunton.
But Brunton completely rejects the theory that the rodents have been deceived by the taste or shape of the bulbs.
‘No. They would know that if they bite one, ” he said, explaining that the red squirrel’s unique survival strategy is to constantly experiment and test their environment for possible new food sources.
Before people, houses and plastic appeared in the landscape, it was a good strategy.
“They apply wild techniques to urbanized human landscapes, and sometimes it can be really weird. But sometimes it works to their advantage,” Brunton said.
The McCabes are fed up with the experiments – they say they’ll keep their Christmas lights in the house next year.