LEWISTON — Note to the squirrels in Kennedy Park: This year, the city kicked it up a notch.

Lewiston had to yank its Christmas lights from the city tree last year after gnawing squirrels threatened to ruin the new $3,500 LED lights.

This week, a local pest control company installed a nearly $1,000 anti-squirrel system that jolts anything thinking of coming back to chew again.

Colton Tlumac, general manager of the wildlife division of Modern Pest Services, said he caught the story about the city’s troubles last winter. Public Works employees took the lights down days after the Dec. 3 official tree-lighting, when squirrels started to short the new lights.

Those new lights had been purchased because squirrels had already ruined the old lights the year before.

“I made a note and said, ‘You know what? I can help,'” Tlumac said.

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He reached out to donate Modern’s time and materials to “see if we can help prevent the squirrels from ruining Christmas,” he said.

On Tuesday, Modern installed the nearly $1,000 Tree-Shock System by a company called Bird Barrier. Tlumac said it’s typically used to discourage birds such as grackles from roosting in trees when homeowners complain they’re making too much noise or too much mess.

The flexible PVC tubing wrapped with stainless-steel wire was wound several times around the truck of the 55-foot spruce — high enough to be out of reach of people — and also around a few lower limbs. Because even the lowest limbs of the tree are high off the ground, squirrels must travel up the trunk, where they will contact the electrified wire and get the message.

“It gives them a harmless shock that conditions them to leave,” Tlumac said. “If they climb up the tree, they’ll come in contact with that, and they’ll quickly learn that they don’t want to be there.”

It doesn’t affect birds landing on the limbs higher up. The system can run as long as two months on a pair of batteries.

“It’s a nice temporary solution to help save the city,” he said. “I did test it myself to make sure it wasn’t a harmful zap.”

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As an extra precaution, the city removed as many pine cones (read: squirrel food) as it could in advance.

Mike Bernier, district manager at Lewiston Public Works, said so far, the 3,250 feet of LED lights with 3,250 bulbs were untouched.

“I think this is going to work great,” Bernier said. “It’s going to save us money and it’s going to keep the tree lit throughout the holiday season, which is the most important thing.”

Tlumac couldn’t estimate how many squirrels live in Kennedy Park. A lot. And they’ll get their spruce back soon enough.

“The squirrels we saw running around (during the system installation) didn’t seem very scared of people,” he said. “If someone walked by, they didn’t really move. Once the time frame’s over, we’ll take it down, let them live happily in the tree once again. Until next year.”

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Losing your ho-ho-ho because of ro-ro-rodents?

Having your own troubles with squirrels taking a bite out of your home holiday displays? Frustrations? Solutions? Let us know for an upcoming story. Photographs of the damage encouraged. Contact writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or at [email protected]


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