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Animals Gnaw on Electrical Wires

chewed wires

12.14.2003 - One of the greatest dangers of having wild animals living in your attic is that they can cause destruction, in particular, to electrical wires.  Many animals like to gnaw and chew, but most cases of wire destruction are from rodent species - squirrels and rats.  I have been in thousands of attics so far in my career as a wildlife removal specialist, and a good percentage (more than not) of the houses with rodent infestations have some extent of chewing on the electrical wires.  The four photos above represent just a few of the cases I've seen so far.

A rodent's teeth grow continually, much like our fingernails.  Just like a cat has to scratch its claws to keep them in check and we trim our nails, a rodent has to gnaw to keep their teeth at the proper size.  They gnaw on many surfaces.  I often see extensive damage to the wood in an attic.  They just seem to like to chew on wires sometimes.

The two primary problems with wire damage like this are first, that it can cause a fire hazard, and second, that it can cause electrical shorts.  Of the two, the former is of course the larger concern.  I've noticed that many rodents tend to travel along the wooden beams in the attic, and they often choose to gnaw on the wires that lay across these beams, such as in the lower-right photograph.  If they gnaw down to the copper, and that copper touches the wood, you've got a chance for a house fire!  It's estimated half of fires of unknown origin are from rodent wire damage.  I don't know how true this is, but do know that it does happen.

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I've also seen several cases in which animals have become electrocuted and died on the wires, and caused shorts.  Customers have told me, "this side of the house lost power" or similar things, and then electricians discovered rodent chewing, and then I was called out to fix the rodent problem.  I've been to a few homes in which chewing rats and squirrels have set off security systems, when they chewed on the security system wires.

Also, I've been to four homes so far which have had a re-plumbing job.  That means that new PVC water lines have been installed through the attic and walls, to replace the copper lines that were under the house.  Rodents chew on these lines as well, and then you've got a water leak in the attic that comes down through the ceiling.  It's a big problem when this happens.

For these reasons and more, if you have rodents living in your attic, it's more of a problem than just dealing with some scratching and scampering noises in the night.  Rodents in the attic pose a serious risk to your property and safety, because of their gnawing behavior, and tendency to gnaw on electrical wires.

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