The powers that be in the power industry are at it again. They’re blaming squirrels for all their problems. It’s a genius move, choosing scapegoats who are incapable of rebuttal.

Last month a squirrel was blamed for a Sauk City outage that left residents without power for two hours. The village’s utilities director claimed a squirrel got past the “squirrel guards” installed to protect the equipment and the rodents. But the man’s name reportedly is Marv Dolphin, which sounds like an alias to me. I figure he’s a plant — a power plant — who is in on the electric companies’ squirrel conspiracy.

Every year, dozens of outages are attributed to these furry agents of chaos. Utility companies are careful to note such events aren’t “power failures.” That would indicate fault. No, these incidents are “power outages.” The power didn’t fail: It’s just “out.” Like it’s picking up a cappuccino or something.

As my nine loyal readers know, I have long suspected a coverup. I mean, come on: Power companies are multimillion-dollar businesses. Can’t they design hardware that foils squirrels? They’re rodents, not Navy SEALs.

“They get in between things,” Dolphin told one of my colleagues. “This one got through two phases (of guards) and blew things apart.”

Spouting a line direct from the power companies’ public relations script, he said 90 percent of outages are related to animals. “When we get these calls and are trying to figure out what happened, the guys start walking the pole line,” Dolphin said. “And we almost always see one there, lying on the ground.” This strikes me as a little too convenient: Dead squirrels tell no tales.

I once grilled an Alliant Energy spokesman about the squirrel conspiracy. He joked about utility workers placing the occasional squirrel carcass at the scene of an unexplained outage, like cops planting a gun on a suspect. But he maintained squirrels truly are the causes of many outages. Bears and birds cause problems sometimes, as do equipment failures and car accidents, but only severe weather is a greater threat than these nut-cheeked terrorists.

Power companies have taken steps to deter squirrels and other wildlife, ranging from designing new hardware to spraying utility poles with fox urine. I can only hope my colleague gets a photo of Dolphin spraying fox whizz to foil squirrels, for submission to National Geographic.

Is any other industry in America paralyzed by rodents? Have you noticed gangs of troublemaking squirrels running around your community, bent on mayhem? If the power companies think we’re buying their squirrel story, they’re nuts.

It’s all a coverup. They know many American consumers — these are the people propping up the home shopping network industry — will buy just about anything. And they know we’d rather chuckle about a wayward squirrel getting fried than consider the frightening possibility that our power grid is inadequate.

And they know dead squirrels have no tales to tell. Depending on the voltage, they may not have tails at all.

If ever you find Ben Bromley’s column unfunny, rest assured his lackluster performance was due to wayward squirrels gnawing on his computer cords. Submit conspiracy theories to


Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.