(WBIR-Knoxville) For two months out of the year, a small creature makes a big impact on Downtown Knoxville's Christmas in the City.
Starting next week, workers will remove thousands of lights throughout the city, but they will have less working lights than when they started.
According to the city, squirrels chew through the wires.
Half of the lights on one tree in Market Square were out on Wednesday night for this reason.
"Ever since we started putting lights on the trees in the park we've had this issue," said Judith Foltz, director of special events for the City of Knoxville.
Many years ago, the city had to replace up to nine strings of lights per day. Throughout the years, it has cost the city thousands of dollars.
"We were having to unwrap all the trees and rework all the lights on a regular basis," Foltz said.
However, in 2010 the city fully switched from incandescent lights to LED lights. LED lights use 75% less energy.
The city still kept the lights off during the day until they realized it cost less money to keep the lights on 24/7, than to turn them off and have the squirrels chew on them.
"We have found that we've had a major decrease in the amount of trees that are losing their lights due to the fact that the squirrels are now realizing they get shocked when they eat the lights. So it's helped a lot," Foltz said.
Jon Wade is an electrician for Amp Electric. He said this type of behavior for squirrels, or other rodents, is not unusual.
"I'm not surprised because that's what animals do. They've been doing it for years. You put up new lights, the squirrels are going to chew on them," Wade said.
According to Foltz, the city plans on talking to a horticulturalist to see if there is something they could put on the lights to keep the squirrels off.
It costs about $10 per strand of LED lights.
Foltz said the city has only had to replace a few lights this year.