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Those Darn Cable-Eatin' Squirrels!

Public enemy No. 1 for cable’s field technicians? Squirrels, if the chatter this past week on a mailing list of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers is any indication.

“I am getting fed up with squirrel chews killing our cable drops,” wrote one cable engineer. “I know that this has been a long-standing issue, and I am curious if anyone has come up with a quick and cost effective way to reduce pole-to-house-drop cable squirrel damage.”

His plea produced various tactics for shooing away the furry varmints.

“I once smeared a pink, axel-grease-like substance touted to be squirrel deterrent over spans of coax that passed through or near trees making them a convenient and favorite snack for the little buggers,” wrote an employee of one large MSO.

“Turned out to be more like putting ketchup on a hamburger than a deterrent; seems they loved the stuff.”

One SCTE contributor said his cable system has been trying green-colored split tubing to protect the drop around the pole.

“We do not put the tubing on the entire span or drop, just areas that the squirrels seem to set and chew,” he wrote, adding that while it appears to work there’s “no real scientific evidence” to explain why. 

That extruded-plastic tubing — called Squirrel-Guard — comes from Multilink, an Elyria, Ohio-based supplier of cable network components and other telecom products.

“I can’t explain to you why it works,” said Multilink vice president of sales Matt Ternes. “But for some reason squirrels don’t chew on green things.” While it’s not exactly a cash cow (rodent?) for the company, Ternes said, “We sell an awful lot of this… so I assume it’s a pretty widespread problem.”

Meanwhile, cablers should be cautious about using poisonous substances, warned another technician on the SCTE list, citing a lawsuit against a cable company in the South after dogs in the area died from eating poisoned squirrel corpses.

The problem ain’t going away. By one estimate, there are more than 1 billion squirrels in the U.S., an extrapolation based on data from the Conservation Commission of Missouri – which also notes that the state’s 80,000 squirrel hunters bag around 2 million of the suckers per year. 

I boldly predict that cable-sponsored squirrel shoots are in the offing.