North American beaver

Busy beavers chew cables; break (a bit of) the internet

Image credit: Dreamstime

Customers in a remote Canadian community suffered an internet outage for almost two days this weekend after beavers gnawed through fibre cables to collect dam-making materials.

The affected community was Tumbler Ridge, a small municipality in British Columbia. According to a report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), approximately 900 customers lost internet access. The outage also affected 60 cable television customers and disrupted mobile phone services, which were “spotty or disrupted” in the area.

Service was lost in the early hours of Saturday morning and restored on Sunday evening; the disruption lasted approximately 36 hours. Telus, which provides service to the community, said that crews were deployed to work “around the clock” to address the issue and investigate how far up the cable the damage continued.

The provider brought in additional equipment and technicians to deal with the partially frozen ground in which the cable was buried.

“Beavers have chewed through our fibre cable at multiple points, causing extensive damage,” Telus spokesperson Liz Sauvé told Gizmodo. “Our team located a nearby dam, and it appears the beavers dug underground alongside the creek to reach our cable, which is buried about three feet underground and protected by a 4.5-inch-thick conduit. The beavers first chewed through the conduit before chewing through the cable in multiple locations.”

The beavers appeared to have been scouting for materials to build their home; a photograph of the large hole at the site shows that they collected bright orange fibre marking tape to incorporate on the roof of their dam.

Speaking to the CBC, Sauvé apologised for the interruption and added that it was a “very unusual and uniquely Canadian turn of events”.

In a uniquely Australian version of the incident, Australia’s National Broadband Network Company announced in November 2017 that it had been repairing damage done to its broadband infrastructure by cockatoos.

According to the company, each area of damage forces them to rip out existing cables and re-run new fibre and power cables at a cost of $10,000 for each incident. Engineers visiting sites to check on the cables around southeast Australia found them damaged, having been chewed by cockatoos; the birds have extraordinarily large, powerful, and sharp bills, which they often use as a third limb.

The company said that it would cover the cables with protective plastic casing to protect them from birds and other animals in the future.

“[The cables] would have to be an acquired taste, because it’s not their usual style,” Professor Gisela Kaplan, an animal behaviour expert, told Reuters. “Cockatoos usually go for wood or strip the bark off trees. They don’t usually go for cables, but it might be the colour or the position of the cables that’s attracted them.”

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