Insights that Echo Beyond the Echo Chamber


Squirrels just wanna have fun: Thieving rodents steal outdoor lights in East Vancouver

‘Tis the season for squirrels to supplement their winter stores — and for some, that appears to include Christmas lights.

Some East Vancouver residents say they’re losing bulbs on their outdoor lights to the thieving rodents, who experts say also enjoy gnawing on the chewy cables. 

Hastings-Sunrise resident Karyn Lam says she caught squirrels in the act on her surveillance camera last Saturday, after noticing about a dozen bulbs from her outdoor string lights had gone missing. 

Lam and her husband had just purchased a new string of lights earlier this year after the same thing happened to their bulbs last fall. 

“We thought someone came in and cut them, but we didn’t know for what reason,” said Lam.

She said the mystery deepened last year when her husband found several of the missing lights buried in the yard of a neighbour for whom he was mowing the lawn. 

When the bulbs started going missing again this year, the family checked their surveillance cameras. 

Rebecca Benoit, who lives in the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood of Vancouver, had her Christmas lights stolen. She caught a thief in the act on camera. (Rebecca Benoit)

To their surprise, a squirrel could be seen popping in the frame and chewing on the cable before making away with the light bulb in its paws. 

Security camera footage from a different part of their yard showed a squirrel running along their fence to chew a cable, eventually dropping the light bulb and scurrying away. 

Lam said they had heard from neighbours that rodents could be the culprit — but didn’t believe it until she saw it on tape. 

“I just thought they can’t find nuts, and they thought these are nuts,” said Lam. “Tough times, I guess, if they’re stealing light bulbs.” 

She says she’s since spoken with other people in the neighborhood that had the same issue, and a recent post in a Hastings-Sunrise Facebook group has dozens of comments from residents with similar experiences. 

“Maybe we’ll just offer a bowl of nuts somewhere so they won’t take our bulbs,” said Lam. 

A picture of a backyard shows a light cable with about 6 missing light bulbs.
A photo of Karyn Lam’s backyard shows her string of lights with several missing bulbs. (Karyn Lam)

The City of Vancouver said in a statement that electric wires often contain a soy-based plastic covering, which urban squirrels enjoy chewing. 

Squirrels can also confuse acorn shaped Christmas lights with food, it said. 

“Preventative measures can include using deterrents such as sprinkling cayenne pepper or spraying diluted hot sauce or apple cider vinegar on wires,” the statement said. 

People with a persistent problem can contact a pest control company, it said. 

Hundreds of stolen bulbs

Lauren Kurc, who also lives in the Hastings-Sunrise neighborhood, said she had hundreds of bulbs stolen from her backyard in May — twice. 

She said within a week, almost all of her string lights, which she had for about eight years, disappeared. A neighbour told her they saw a squirrel making away with a bulb in her backyard, she added.

An image of a backyard shows several strings with wires and missing bulbs hanging.
Hundreds of Lauren Kurc’s string lights went missing earlier this year. They can be seen strung in a zig-zag pattern in her backyard missing their bulbs. (CBC News)

Kurc said she immediately bought new lights, and this time she prepared herself for the looters. She sprayed natural rodent deterrent and dropped peppermint oil on the cables. She also bought two decoy owls to scare the squirrels. 

“I became consumed,” said Kurc. “It was my mission to have these lights for the summer.” 

But she said the new lights only lasted a few weeks before, again, almost every one of them disappeared. She says she has only ever found one bulb on the street in front of her house. 

Kurc says the next time she replaces the lights, she plans to attach them to the wall and string them along the house so the squirrels can’t scale them as easily. 

Her message for the squirrels: “I see you.” 

‘If they can wrap their mouth around it, they will chew it’ 

Mat Neale, operations manager at Solutions Pest Control, says squirrels enjoy chewing on wires year round but he receives more calls at this time of year when people hang up outdoor lights for the holidays. 

He says squirrels, like all rodents, have a natural inclination to chew, be it for accessing food sources or wearing down their teeth, which are constantly growing. 

“If they can wrap their mouth around it, they will chew it,” Neale said. 

He says it is also in squirrels’ nature to steal objects and nest with their stolen goods. 

“From light bulbs to wedding rings, I’ve found all sorts of interesting trinkets that squirrels have decided to thieve.” 


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *