In my continuing struggle against the Laws of Nature (and, I suppose, Nature’s God, for those who are inclined that way), my ability to watch television has been severely impacted by seemingly inexplicable DirecTV outages. Two technicians have had to be sent out. The first one replaced a coupling but that only fixed things temporarily.

The problem was infuriatingly intermittent, and seemed weather related, so initially I had assumed that when it rains or snows, the thick cloud cover was simply killing the signal. Except more and more often, it started to happen when the skies were clear. Going through the “reset” procedure would fix it for maybe a day or two, and as the situation deteriorated eventually the reset only worked for an hour or two. Eventually it was just dead, and so I called and set up a Level Two visit, with a more senior technician.

The second guy figured out what the problem was: the cable way up at the roof line had been gnawed by rodents. Not gnawed all the way through, but just enough to let in water, and water wreaks havoc with the signal. He replaced it last month and pronounced it as “good as new.”

Unfortunately, yesterday the signal conked again.  I blamed the snow, and I did another reset. It then worked fine and still does. But a little over an hour ago, furious dog barking directed my attention to the very same section of roof line where the cable had been replaced, and I saw a telltale tail of gray fur hanging out right over the section between the DirecTV cable and the end of my roof gutter. I grabbed my camera and took a photo.

Here’s a closeup of the little bastard, peering down at me from what he obviously considers his turf:

Nature is so unfair! That gutter is too far for me to reach, as I don’t have an extension ladder which will go that high.

Coax cable  seems to be a particular favorite of squirrels, and there are lots of posts offering gratuitous advice on what to do. Some advise shooting, others suggest fake owls, Tabasco sauce (which seems to work as a repellent), and one suggested running the cable inside electrical armor, like BX or conduit. All of these are problematic for various reasons, but my biggest problem is that I don’t have a ladder that will reach that high.

What really sucks is the location of the cable. Right over the damn gutter, which of course fills with snow. As a techie commenter explains,

If the jacket is removed to expose the shield then capillary action will suck up water like a sponge and compromise the cable. Replacing the cable is the recommended action.

Lead pellets for the squirrels is the second recommendation.

All well and good, except shooting at one’s roof is decidedly unwise, and in a city, dangerous and illegal. Perhaps the wire shouldn’t have been routed over the gutter in the first place, and perhaps it should have been placed inside metal conduit, but in any event, it looks as if I am going to have to sooner or later call and go through the repair rigmarole again.

As someone who enjoys conspiracy theories, I am almost tempted to ask “Who benefits?” Certainly the squirrels do, because as rodents, they are obligated by nature to gnaw on whatever they can find to keep their teeth from overgrowing (which can be fatal), and unlike power wires, coax cannot hurt them.

But there’s another special interest group that benefits.

The satellite repair community!

And so as you new satellite school graduates go out into the world to hang cable and dishes I would give you this word of commencement advice. Watch out for squirrels! Be careful as you drive that you not squash our animal friends. Remember that after you are paid for an installation you can expect to get paid to do it again after the squirrels visit. Learn phone work because squirrels will shred phone lines also. Squirrels are your friends!

Indeed they are. And the repairmen are giving them aid and comfort.

I knew I’d find collusion somewhere!

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all. I appreciate all thoughts about what to do.

BTW, I found a huge cache of squirrel-killing ideas here.