PSE finds family of flying squirrels in power pole



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Posted on May 26, 2011 at 10:37 PM

Updated Friday, May 27 at 10:04 AM

BELLEVUE, Wash. – Puget Sound Energy zeroed in Thursday on miniature yet formidable foes that could knock out power to thousands of homes without even trying.

Flying squirrels.

So tiny and quick you can barely see it, one of the nocturnal gliders peered out at utility crews then headed for deep cover.

"You usually see them in the forest,” Puget Sound Energy biologist Mel Walters said. “It's pretty uncommon to see them in the city.”

Workers found a family with babies living inside an old woodpecker hole on a utility pole when a squirrel tripped one of the lines last March. The pole sits in the parking lot of a Bellevue business complex on 112th Avenue Northeast.

Squirrels cause up to 1,500 outages a year for PSE.

"Those outages cost huge amounts of money just to respond to,” Walters said.

The crews weren’t waging a war, but launching a rescue of a creature that peaks everyone's curiosity.

First, PSE briefly cut off the electricity going through the feeder lines on the utility pole. Workers then placed a protective covering over the hole. Finally, they insulated the power line from any future animal contact.

It's not only good for the environment, but keeps electricity flowing to homes and businesses.

Flying squirrels are also state protected animals.

The babies should leave the nest by September. When that happens, PSE will fill the hole to keep anything else from moving in.