Squirrels Chew Through City Park Christmas Decorations, Sponsor Won't Replace Lights

A Minnesota city's holiday lights display was scaled back this year because of a band of mischievous squirrels.

Mears Park in St. Paul typically has an annual holiday event where it is decorated with festive lights. However, the park's squirrels began chewing through the lights' wires in 2020. The vendor has refused to pay for new lights that would replace the usual display at a cost of $27,400.

"Our vendor reuses the lights, and they can't afford to put those lights up only to have the squirrels destroy them again," said Lee Ann LaBore, the co-chair of the Friends of Mears Park. "I don't blame them."

LaBore told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the park's squirrels are often overfed by parkgoers, who give them junk food and try to make them do tricks. She even said that she has seen a few people try to encourage the squirrels to jump on them, calling it "a little disturbing." The behavior culminated in the squirrels eating the light wires last year.

"It was a constant battle," volunteer John Mannillo said. "We'd have to go in and repair the lights every week. We'd come in and there'd be two or three trees out. That picked up to the point where there would be so many trees out, the installer wouldn't do it."

Thankfully, the annual display is once again located at the park, although it looks a little different. The remaining lights are still on display but are more spread out than usual. The park also has a projector that creates large animations of snowflakes. Despite their best efforts, those who live near the park are upset that the usual grandeur of the park's holiday offerings is not on display.

"I get some Facebook stuff, and it's pretty negative, and I understand," LaBore said. "People look down from their condos or apartments and they want to see the twinkly lights. Well, we can't have twinkly lights. It was probably this or nothing. It's gorgeous when you walk through it, but it's not as pretty from up above."

St. Paul Squirrel
The squirrels in Mears Park in St. Paul, Minnesota, are fat, bold and accustomed to being fed by people. They have been chewing through wires on the Christmas lights, so Mears Park isn't lit up as usual this holiday season. Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press via AP

​​The wires, it turns out, were coated with polylactic acid, a derivative of corn sugar, an appealing appetizer for squirrels spoiled by park visitors who won't stop feeding them.

Blame the "tree rats," LaBore said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.