It may be "the most wonderful time of the year," but squirrels are making it not so wonderful in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Officials in the Fairfield County city blamed squirrels for chewing through wires on several strands of lights around the Christmas tree outside City Hall.
Ken Hughes, Norwalk's superintendent of parks, told The Hour that he noticed the problem on Monday when he was testing the Christmas lights for the tree-lighting ceremony Wednesday. Only about a quarter of the lights lit up. Hughes noticed that a wire near the bottom of the 35-foot tree had been chewed through, apparently by squirrels.
Michael Mocciae, director of Norwalk's Parks and Recreation Department, told WNPR that even the lights and sockets had been chewed.
"We thought it was vandals, but one of our guys called to say he saw squirrels chewing the light bulbs and sockets then dropping them to the ground," Mocciae said.
This isn't the first time squirrels have tried to ruin the city's tree-lighting ceremony.
Mocciae said Norwalk had used a tree in Mathews Park in the past, but the damage done by squirrels to its Christmas lights forced them back to the tree in front of City Hall.
Fortunately, the strands of LED lights cost only about $17.00 each. But the manpower to solve the problem was time-consuming. It took over three hours to inspect the Christmas tree from all sides to find and replace the chewed strands.
From the perspective of a furry forager, Christmas tree lights can look delicious.
"The squirrels think they're nuts -- but we think they're nuts!" Mocciae said of the squirrels' confusion.
Mocciae said the department will use red pepper spray for now, in the hopes of dissuading the squirrels from behaving like Scrooge, the infamous antagonist in Charles Dickens' classic tale, "A Christmas Tale."
But next year, he said they will consider trapping them. Then it might again just be the most wonderful time of the year.
Leyda Quast is an intern at WNPR. This report includes information from The Associated Press.