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Keene volunteers work to ward varmints off city Christmas tree

By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent

November 19. 2017 10:41PM
Keene Kiwanis Club member Peg Bruce, right, instructs Mike Davis of Phil's Tree Service how to spread bars of Irish Spring soap throughout the city's Christmas tree to ward off squirrels during the decoration of the tree Saturday. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)



The Keene Fire Department assists with the decoration of the city’s Christmas tree Saturday in anticipation of Friday’s lighting. (Meghan Pierce/Union Leader Correspondent)

KEENE — When the Kiwanis Club of Keene decorated the city Christmas tree in Central Square Saturday, it brought as many bars of Irish Spring soap as it could.

The “strong” smelling soap is supposed to ward off squirrels, Kiwanis Club member Peg Bruce said. Last year, squirrels chewed through many electric light wires, rending the tree half lit more often than not.

“We probably had five days for the entire season in which the entire tree was lit,” Bruce said. “We had a lot of trouble with the squirrels last year. They ate right through the strings of lights.”

Bruce also has outfitted the tree this year with a Have-a-Heart humane squirrel trap and is using salty tasting wires this year.

“We’re hoping that these efforts will keep them a little more mellow this year. Keep them away from our tree and our lights,” Bruce said.

The tree went up a few days earlier, but by Saturday, Bruce said she has already had to relocate one squirrel.

“My understanding is — my research tells me — they think the lights are acorns,” Bruce said, and to get at the acorns, the squirrels chew on the wires.

Bruce said the dilemma took volunteers by surprise last year. In the 30-plus years the city has been erecting and lighting a large Christmas tree in Central Square, squirrels chewing through the light strings has never been a problem.

Last year the problem started even before the tree was lit. At the tree lighting ceremony, the lights at the top of the tree did not light because the wires on that string had already been chewed through.

“Nobody can even remember the lights on the trees being chewed up before,” Bruce said.

She said, despite a “valiant effort by everybody” to stop the problem last year, they couldn’t solve the issue and ended up shutting the tree off earlier than they have in years past.

The tree lighting ceremony is planned to take place Friday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in Central Square. The event includes cookies and hot cocoa, and 600 free bells will be given out to children.

The Keene High School Brass Quintet, Dublin Children’s Choir and the Grand Monadnock Youth Chorus will provide music for the event.


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