Substations across the US have seen an increase in the number of raccoon-related outages.

Recent outages have hit urban and rural substations, cutting power to thousands of residences and businesses.

Dozens of substation outages every year can be attributed to raccoons climbing onto equipment. Consumers Energy reports that 21% of its wildlife-related outages are caused by raccoons.

TransGard Systems studied raccoon behaviour when it developed its substation fencing, which is specially designed to protect against incursion from climbing animals.

TransGard’s general manager Bill Reichard said the current spike in raccoon-related outages should come as no surprise to those who have studied the species. He attributes the current outbreak to four interrelated factors:

  • Raccoons enter mating season as daylight increases. During mating, males seeking females roam their entire habitat area, which can be as large as 20 square miles. The increase in activity creates a greater likelihood a raccoon will come across a substation and attempt to use it for warmth, security or sleep
  • Raccoons rely on trees or other vertical structures to climb when they feel threatened. Substation equipment, poles and chain-link fencing appeal to raccoons, which instinctively seek height for protection
  • Studies indicate raccoons are an intelligent species, capable of remembering solutions to problems for years. They can bypass or outsmart many of the less-effective substation protections, such as plastic fence panels
  • After a population explosion starting in the 1940s, the estimated number of raccoons in North America in the late 1980s had grown 15 to 20 times higher than in the 1930s. The rising population has led to a greater number of expensive substation outages

Many of the substations with recent outages had installed preventive equipment that failed to repel raccoon invaders. TransGard Systems took raccoon behaviour into account during the design of its fencing.

TransGard fencing is the only product that delivers a humane electric shock that turns away climbing animals. Because raccoons are intelligent, they remember and avoid substations protected by TransGard.

Reichard said: "Typically, prevention of just a single animal-caused outage will justify the cost of installing a TransGard System.

"It’s why most of our customers install fences at multiple, or even dozens of, locations."

Reichard added that, while not all substations require a proven raccoon deterrent, substations near habitats that appeal to climbing animals should consider TransGard fencing. TransGard protects 2,500 substations nationwide.