AUSTIN, Texas — There's a special day for just about anything. And believe it or not, Jan. 21 is National Squirrel Appreciation Day. But not everyone appreciates them.
I didn't want to do a news story about our own encounters with squirrels here at KVUE. After all, we report the news – we don't make the news. But something odd is going on.
In the past few weeks, squirrels have been causing chaos for us. They've managed to break into the TV station again and again – five times in three weeks – sending workers on wild chases through offices and corridors. No one yet has discovered how they've been getting in.
"I mean, literally one of them was running through the newsroom – I had to jump in my chair! I almost gave myself a heart attack," KVUE's Ashley Goudeau said.
When squirrels aren't disrupting our work, they're playing in the power lines outside the TV station, knocking us off the air twice recently. Viewers saw this happen on our five o’clock news a few weeks ago.
Of course, we're not alone. Last year, Austin Energy was called out more than 600 times to restore power after squirrels and other critters made the mistake of chewing on high-voltage wires. At up to $1,500 a call, that's almost $1 million in damages a year, despite the utility's major efforts to add wildlife protection devices to the lines.
To find out more about squirrel behavior, we went to an expert, “The Squirrel Girl.” Marie Romano talks to the animals. She made friends with hundreds of squirrels on the UT campus and even published a yearbook with their pictures and names.
“I don’t personally think they have grudge against KVUE," she said. "Probably what’s happening is it's wintertime. The squirrels are in their work mode, they are getting ready to bulk-up for winter. They’re going to look for any food and any warmth that they can find.”
So, why are otherwise fearless TV reporters so uneasy around squirrels? Maybe it’s because of recent reports of squirrels attacking humans. Or perhaps they saw this movie trailer on YouTube:
After seeing that, we're happy to report KVUE has been squirrel-free for a few days. But when meteorologist Jason Mikell looked out over our parking lot this weekend, there one was – watching, waiting.
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