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In the Battle Between Wildlife and Power Grids, Never Bet Against the Beaver

June 20, 2022 Leave a comment DRI Admin

While the big resilience concerns focus on natural disasters, cybersecurity and supply chain woes, a pair of recent attacks on the power grid are a reminder to never forget how much damage a single small animal can do.

On June 7, an outage in northwestern British Columbia left residents without internet, landline or cellular service for more than eight hours. The culprit: a single beaver who gnawed its way through an aspen tree –causing it to fall on both BC Hydro lines and a Telus fibre-optic cable line.

How did they identify a beaver as the cause of the outage? Chew marks on the downed tree, of course.

The bigger issue is something resilience professionals need to be aware of – the utilities shared pole space. So while only 21 residents lost power, the fibre-optic damage disconnected a whole region from internet and cell services.

British Columbia’s power grid is getting attacked from the air as well. Back in May, thousands lost power for hours over the course of the weekend, all thanks to some birds. Osprey were attempting to build nests on power distribution poles – in one case causing a fire on one of the poles due to debris. To make matters more complicated, osprey nests are protected under Canadian wildlife and bird acts, forcing responders to relocate the birds to safe poles that have platforms on top specifically to encourage nesting.

If you need a visual reminder of how the big damage caused by the smallest creatures, check out CyberSquirrel1, which keeps an updated map of outages caused by squirrels and other critters!

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