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Grinchy squirrels break beloved West Island Christmas tree’s 39-year streak

Click to play video: 'Outstanding West Island Christmas tree tradition turns to dark' Outstanding West Island Christmas tree tradition turns to dark
A Christmas tradition dating back nearly four decades is about to be broken, by squirrels. A Montreal family has made a habit of decking out their massive pine tree with a dazzling light display every year. Pilots have even reported seeing the tree from the sky. But as Dan Spector reports, this year will be different – Dec 21, 2020

A Christmas tradition dating back nearly four decades is about to be broken by squirrels. A Dorval family decks out their gigantic pine tree on Clement Ave. with a dazzling light display every single year.

“Call it an old-fashioned Christmas tradition,” said Robert Gallant.

To say Gallant and his wife, Margaret, enjoy lighting up the neighbourhood with their tree would be an understatement as big as the 75-foot pine itself.

The pair has been decking it out since 1981.

“My wife was out at a Christmas party and while she was out, I decorated the tree,” recounted Gallant. The couple had just bought their home, and being low on money at the time the couple had originally said they wouldn’t buy decorations that year. Gallant chose to surprise Margaret.

“He’d even done it in the color scheme that I had wanted him to do it in. It was beautiful. So we’ve been doing it ever since,” said Margaret.

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As the tree has grown bigger, the operation has grown more complex. Gallant recounted how he started on a step ladder, before graduating to a full-fledged scaffolding system and finally decorating the tree with a crane in recent years.

The community adores the tree and the effort he puts in.

READ MORE: Christmas tree lights up Dorval neighbourhood

“It’s gorgeous, just gorgeous,” said neighbour Heather Deeks.

The Gallants have thank-you letters about the tree put in their mailbox by strangers. Some, including Deeks, even claim to have appreciated the tree from the sky.

“We’ve seen the tree from the plane. It’s unbelievable,” she said.

However, after 39 years,  the tree has gone dark.

“I made the decision to skip this year,” Gallant told Global News.

The problem is grinchy neighbourhood squirrels chewing through the wires.

“That’s who robbed Christmas spirit on Clement this year,” Gallant said.

He said he’s been battling the critters for a few years now, and the uphill fight has worn him down.

“It’s just the disappointment of getting it lit up, having it lit for a few days and then having it go down section by section by section,” he explained.

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Neighbours have expressed their disappointment in a local community Facebook group, and in person.

2020, it’s typical for this year, right?” said Deeks.

READ MORE: Montreal’s St-Laurent Blvd falls victim to ‘Grinches’ as Christmas trees disappear

They tried a high-frequency electronic rodent repellent device, but Gallant said either it did not work or the squirrels “didn’t give a hoot.”

He even trapped and relocated hundreds of squirrels to other areas of the West Island.

“It was 282 squirrels in the past year and a half, I counted every one,” he said.

Bill Dowd of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control told Global News that may have made the problem worse.

“Nature is like a vacuum. If you take away 20 squirrels or 200 squirrels from a neighbourhood, that allows the outlaying squirrels to move into that neighbou

Click to play video: 'Montreal’s Main falls victim to ‘Grinches’ as Christmas trees disappear' Montreal’s Main falls victim to ‘Grinches’ as Christmas trees disappear
Montreal’s Main falls victim to ‘Grinches’ as Christmas trees disappear – Dec 10, 2020

rhood,” he said.

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Gallant said his research had found the newer type of wires had soy in them, which Dowd confirmed.

“The coating on the electrical wiring is soy based, so it’s actually a food source for squirrels,” Dowd said, adding that the same kind of wires can tempt pests to nest under the hoods of cars.

The expert recommends loud noises and a garden hose to keep unwanted pests at bay.

The Gallants are hoping they can find Christmas lights with thicker wires, like the ones they used in the earlier days of the trees, that would be harder for the squires to bite through. They say they are open to suggestions that would help them relight the tree as soon as possible.

“It’s disheartening, but they haven’t got the best of Robert Gallant,” Gallant proclaimed.

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