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Prevent wildlife causing power outages with data collection software

By Linda Schwefel
November 21, 2023

Electricity is the lifeblood of modern society, powering everything from homes to hospitals. Yet, this critical service is surprisingly vulnerable to the natural world, particularly the untamed antics of wildlife. Every year, curious critters are the cause of widespread power outages, leading to significant economic losses and reliability issues for utilities. As electrical utilities seek innovative solutions to mitigate these interruptions, data collection software emerges as a pivotal tool in the strategic arsenal against wildlife-causing power outages. This blog explores an interesting use case for such software: managing wildlife interference effectively to ensure the protection of both animals and the reliability of utility services.

Understanding the challenge

In their search for new territories or while merely engaging in their daily activities, wildlife frequently encounters electrical infrastructure, leading to tragic consequences. Incidental intruders like squirrels, raccoons, birds, weasels, slugs and more can inadvertently cause power disruptions, inflict damage on equipment, and sometimes spark fires.

Squirrels are the undisputed champions of power grid disruption, with one utility estimating that they are responsible for 8.5 percent of outages in its service area. The threat from squirrels is so widespread that the nonprofit American Public Power Association tracks squirrel-related outages, resulting in the charming graph showing the spikes in squirrel mischief in spring and late fall. Never has property destruction been so cute!

Graphic of squirrel-related electrical outages

Squirrel-related power outages by month

Electricity’s journey from power plants to our homes is an epic saga of human ingenuity, but it’s one often disrupted by nature’s cast of characters. These ventures into human-developed areas are more than just minor setbacks. They account for an estimated 10-20 percent of power outages each year, underscoring the urgent need for effective solutions to ensure the reliability and safety of our electrical services.

Harnessing the power of data collection software like Fulcrum, utilities are finding innovative ways to turn the tide. Join us as we explore how leveraging technology lends a new perspective on an old problem, marrying the need for uninterrupted electrical service with the preservation of our wildlife.

Role of data collection in wildlife management

Strengthening the reliability of our power grids goes hand in hand with proactive wildlife management. A case study from Esri underscores the significant role data plays in this field. The study shows how utilities use spatial analytics to not just record but also foresee patterns in bird behavior, which helps in crafting strategies to prevent outages. Moving from a reactive to a predictive maintenance model is a transformative step toward more resilient infrastructure.

Encouraged by these outcomes, electrical utilities are increasingly recognizing the importance of robust GIS-first data collection platforms in managing wildlife interactions. Industry-leading solutions like Fulcrum equip field technicians with the tools to document and report wildlife presence and interference accurately. For instance, when a bird builds a nest on a wire or a squirrel causes a stir in a substation, a field worker can instantly capture the event using the mobile app. This real-time documentation is not only essential for immediate issue resolution but also for crafting long-term mitigation strategies.

Workflow for fixing wildlife damage to electrical infrastructure

Fulcrum workflow for handling wildlife causing power outages and damage to electrical infrastructure.


Through the analysis of accumulated data, utilities can identify trends and high-risk periods for wildlife activity. This information is invaluable for scheduling preemptive maintenance checks during times known for increased animal movements, such as nesting seasons. Proactive risk management helps utilities prevent outages. This ensures a more reliable power supply for customers.

Furthermore, collaboration between utility companies and environmental specialists is streamlined with the use of data collection software. Sharing data gathered on platforms like Fulcrum helps both parties understand the nuances of wildlife behavior in relation to electrical infrastructure. Together, they can work on strategies that protect both the animal population and the integrity of utility services.

Data platforms also serve an educational purpose. Creating a database for wildlife-related disruptions educates new utility workers. It raises their awareness of hazards and teaches proper responses. Also, this database keeps utilities transparent and accountable. It supports adherence to environmental laws about reporting wildlife interactions.

Powering ahead with smarter wildlife management

It’s clear that our digital and natural worlds are entwined in ways we never imagined, especially when it comes to the pesky problem of wildlife causing power outages and damage to electrical infrastructure. It’s a complex issue, but the solution is as clear: data, data, and more data. By embracing technology like data collection software, utilities are not just fighting back against power interruptions; they’re becoming wildlife guardians.

When a squirrel triggers a blackout by navigating a maze of transformers, it’s not just a mishap. It’s a data point. Armed with the right information, we can transform these occurrences into proactive measures that strengthen our outage prevention tactics. Field technicians lead in gathering this information, using a data collection platform such as Fulcrum to document each incident. As we collect and analyze this data, we are not merely responding to problems. Instead, we are evolving our approach, enhancing our knowledge, and reinforcing our infrastructure to keep wildlife interactions from disrupting service.

As we look out on the horizon, we see a world where our electrical grids are safe, secure, and two steps ahead of our furry and feathered friends. It’s a place where outages caused by a family of raccoons, or a curious owl become the tales of old. And with platforms like Fulcrum ready to roll, we’re on our way to a brighter, outage-free tomorrow.

Using data to critter-proof the power grid

Wildlife adventures shouldn’t lead to blackout headaches. Why not chat with our experts to design a defense for your electrical grid? They’re brimming with smart, adaptable strategies that consider the safety of both our infrastructure and our wildlife. Reach out today to schedule your complimentary, no-obligation demo and take the first step towards a more resilient future.