Squirrels go nuts on car wiring in Willamette
Those cute and fluffy squirrels in the Willamette neighborhood are not just gorging themselves on nuts and stealing birdseed this winter - they have taken on a penchant for car wiring.
As some residents in the Willamette neighborhood are finding out, those busy squirrels are causing some expensive damage and keeping the area mechanic busy.
A few weeks ago when Bob Brune's truck wouldn't start, he assumed he had a dead battery. But when he opened the hood, he found a pile of leaves and pieces of chewed up wire all over the inside of the engine compartment - the work of squirrels.
Brune, who lives on Fifth Avenue near 15th Street, managed to use some speaker wiring to get the truck started and limp it down to Russ S. Auto Care on Willamette Falls Drive. The cost of the squirrels' wiry lunch? $325.
Brune soon learned he was not alone with his squirrel woes. The neighbors across the street had two vehicles stalled out by the squirrels to the tune of more than $400.
'They devoured the wire harness off,' Brune said.
The neighbor then attempted to use pepper spray to ward off the pesky critters. But just a short time later, the squirrels attacked again, causing even greater damage.
After talking with more residents on the street, Brune learned of yet another vehicle that had been left powerless by the rodents.
To add insult to injury, over Christmas, a squirrel got into the Brune's house via the chimney and lived in the empty home for a week, even making a nest in the sleeper sofa.
Brune has lived in the neighborhood for 16 years and has never experienced this level of squirrel mayhem.
'Why did they start eating cars all of a sudden?' Brune pondered. 'They get in the trees and taunt us.'
Russ Leinbach of Russ S. Auto Care agreed that he's never seen anything like the wiring-chewing spree, adding that two more Jeeps were affected that he did not repair.
'I don't know what the heck is going on,' he said. 'It's a nasty thing to have happen.'
Leinbach said the repairs to the wiring are complex and time-consuming, as the wires are bundled together in groups of up to 25. Following the lines and repairing the wires is tedious work that doesn't come cheap to vehicle owners.
Surprisingly, squirrel damage is covered by some insurance plans after owners pay a deductible.
'It's not a fun job,' Leinbach admitted.
After a few fixes, Leinbach did some Internet research on the problem. He said squirrels like the warm engines, and the electrical wiring and its coating tastes salty to the squirrels.
'They are attracted to that,' he said.
Now, the war is on against the critters.
Along with the use of pepper spray, Leinbach installed magnetic containers filled with mothballs in one vehicle's engine compartment, trying to repel the rodents.
Some of the neighbors are taking it a step further.
Brune and another neighbor have set up live traps. So far, three culprits have been caught and released on the other side of the river at Clackamette Park, making a return trip tough for the squirrels.
'We're kind of shipping them out there,' Brune said.
Still, the mystery of the car-vandalizing squirrels is puzzling, and no end is in sight.
'Is it the weather? Is it 2012 and the animals are taking over?' Leinbach asked.
To be on the safe side, Brune is now parking his truck in the garage.