Squirrels frustrate Cincinnati Zoo holiday efforts

Squirrels frustrate Cincinnati Zoo holiday efforts (Image 1)

Around the country, people are decorating for the holiday season. But in Cincinnati, local zoo officials face an extra challenge in spreading holiday cheer.

Zoo workers hang holiday lights in trees and clever squirrels are taking the lights down.

The culprits look innocent. But the words “sneaky” and “squirrel” start with the same letter for a reason. But ask the folks responsible for Bear Hill.

“This is by far the number one spot for squirrels. We’ve had many a night where it’s completely dark,” said Chad Yelton of the Cincinnati Zoo.

One year, Yelton said, the zoo lost 300 strands “and most of that was on Bear Hill.”

The squirrels gnaw at the light strands, indifferent ot the whole point of the festival of lights.

Most of the more than 2 million lights the workers string from August until the holidays are LED.

But back in the day of incandescent bulbs, squirrels would unscrew them, apparently mistaking them for nuts in the winter.

It’s so bad the zoo took to spreading hot sauce on the strands as a deterrent.

And it didn’t work.

“They kind of laughed at it,” Yelton said of the squirrels. “You know, it didn’t really do much. I think we felt good about it, but it didn’t do much.”

The tulip beds are covered with netting, too. Five or 10 years ago, that wasn’t necessary.

“It’s a challenge whose smarter, the squirrel or the horticulturists,” said Steve Foltz, director of horticulture at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Right now, he said, “the squirrels win.”

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