Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Squirrel jam: Rodents on the rise


August 11, 2011

An surge in the local squirrel population is causing headaches, as the rodents bore into homes, munch fruit in gardens and trip power transformers around town.

"They’re getting into people’s insulation, and into their houses. Someone had one crawl up the screen of their front door. They’re everywhere," said lumberyard owner Chip Lende. "I don’t know how to explain it, but they’re everywhere."

Main Street storekeeper Dave Canipe resorted to rat traps after a squirrel ran into his business Aug. 5, eluding his purebred beagle Lulu and twice stealing food from a live-trap.

"It was windy that day. He saw an opening and went for it… He was light-footed, and they’re smart too," Canipe said, explaining the tiny intruder cleaned two rat traps of peanut butter before a third trap nailed him.

War was declared when the critter started burrowing into merchandise at the back of the store, Canipe said.

Fort Seward resident Leigh Horner recently lost power at her house following a gunshot sound that turned out to be a power transformer exploding after being shorted by a squirrel.

"The squirrels get in. The transformer blows up. The squirrel blows up. It’s a mess," Horner said. She has.... adopted a cat, in part to help keep squirrel numbers around her house from spiraling. "There’s a lot of them and they’re bold."

Squirrels have blown about 13 transformers this year, a number power company officials say is a bit higher than usual. Utililty workers are gradually making modifications to transformers to prevent such occurences, officially listed on outage reports as acts of "animal vandalism."

Other residents this week reported squirrels in cherry trees in Fort Seward and in strawberry patches on Small Tracts Road.

Kenny Waldo said his son Seth has been on patrol on Helms Loop Road, but it’s done little good. "He got 15, and he didn’t put a dent in them. (Squirrels) are great, just as long as they don’t get into things or tear up the insulation," Waldo said.

Lumberyard owner Lende said he believes the best remedy is a gob of peanut butter on a chunk of cottonwood, floating in a five-gallon bucket full of water. Squirrels can’t get the peanut butter without falling in and drowning, he said. "They can’t help themselves."

A Fish and Game employee who asked to not be identified directed this information to ambitious squirrel-hunters, from state hunting regulations: There is no limit on red squirrels, flying squirrels or ground squirrels in the Haines area, neither meat nor hide must be salvaged and there is no closed season.