What's the deal with squirrels wreaking havoc under the hood?
A number of car owners in London, Ont., are wondering why this year's crop of squirrels are wreaking havoc on their vehicles' engines, costing them hundreds of dollars in repairs after rodents chewed through wiring under their hoods.
"The first time I noticed anything was after lifting my hood and noticing the engine cover was being gnawed away at," said Anna Chamberlain who first spent $700 repairing her car's damaged wiring harness last summer.
It looked like teeth marks from a rodent of some kind, she said.
Then, last month, she popped the hood of her car again while it was parked outdoors at work. She was surprised to find pile of branches laid out on top of her engine.
"I looked under the hood and there was a bed of pine boughs that you or I could have lied down on and had a nap," she laughed. "It was that thick."
Chamberlain said two co-workers have had similar problems. It cost one of them $3,000 to repair.
It's definitely squirrels, said Chamberlain's mechanic, Dean Watson of Dean Watson's Auto Repairs.
"You can tell by the size of the nests they're building," he said. "We've had many customers in the last five to six weeks with the same issue as Anna Chamberlain.
"It's not as bad as people taking catalytic converters, but it's getting there," said Watson.
Are the wires tasty?
"Are the squirrels lacking something in their diet?" asked Watson. "Why all a sudden are they going under hoods of vehicles and chewing off wiring harnesses. I don't understand it."
The squirrels are often after the plastic covering, said Ben Dantzer, a University of Michigan biology associate professor who specializes in rodents.
"Whether they're getting something tasteful, it's hard to say," he said.
Wires may contain sodium salts, which can be attractive to squirrels, although some companies are now producing wiring that will actually repel small animals.
In the meantime, both Watson and Chamberlain suggest using some home remedies.
Try sprinkling cayenne pepper over your engine, said Watson.
"Do it every two or three days. Some people mix it with some type of water solution and then boom, they don't bother it anymore cause they hate cayenne pepper."
Chamberlain has been testing peppermint oil and dryer sheets, and suggests "dipping cotton balls in peppermint oil and scattering them underneath the hood. Also using dryer sheets and shoving them near your engine so they're turned away by that."