zapper.jpg(CNN) Shocking news: Squirrels and power lines don’t mix. The cute but pesky rodents are a leading cause of unplanned outages. They chew through power lines, fry themselves by completing electrical circuits and generally wreak havoc on power grids. Utility companies, always on the hunt for new ways to combat animals, may have found an inexpensive solution to what has long been a vexing problem.

Mystech: Wait, so it only employs a nonlethal jolt? Tell me this is a setting the user can change! Thanks to Cyberduck and Loresinger for helping me track this down.

If you can’t beat ’em, zap ’em.

The ZAPshield is an $11 polymer disc that arrived on the market some three years ago and delivers a nonlethal, electrostatic jolt to any varmint touching it. In Pennsylvania, two large utilities have both deployed the ZAPshield.

The idea is to give the squirrels enough of a shock to keep them away from sensitive power equipment but not enough of one to hurt them.

Inventor Jim Rauckman compares the feeling of getting zapped by the ZAPshield to walking across a carpet on a dry day and then touching someone.

“It teaches them not to be up there,” Rauckman said.