Days are getting shorter, the leaves are beginning to turn and pumpkin spice *everything* is everywhere. With the accompanying cooler temperatures we’re starting to get, some of the wildlife outside may start thinking about coming inside. Read on and we’ll give you info on what animals to look out for and some tips to make sure they don’t find a way inside your house.
These tiny creatures (each only 1-2 inches long, not including tails) are said to be the most common mammal in the entire United States. Despite their diminutive size, the common house mouse can cause BIG problems. Not only do they reproduce at an alarming rate (up to 12 babies every few weeks!) but they are known to carry up to 200 human pathogens, including salmonella and Hantavirus. Mice will enter your home through holes no larger than a dime, so each crack and crevice is an open invitation to mice: “Come on in and set up house!” When they’re outside, they eat cereals, seeds, nuts, fruit and sometimes insects. When they’re inside, they’ll eat almost anything.
How can you tell if you have mice? Look for the tiny brown droppings (they eat all day long so there will be plenty!) and micro-puddles of sticky, smelly mouse urine. They’ll also leave lots of gnaw marks where they’re trying to get to food. If you see one mouse, as with most pests, there are definitely more you can’t see.
What can you do? Start now sealing up cracks and openings in your home. Pay special attention to the areas around pipes going in and out. Steel wool works great to close these up, as well as spray foam and caulk. If the mice have already made it inside, there are a number of kinds of traps and poisons. If you’ve got a real infestation, please call a professional.
That tell-tale scurrying sound you hear is not your house being haunted, it’s more likely you’ve got squirrels in your attic, chimney or vents. Squirrels can get in through uncapped chimneys and can gnaw holes in your siding to try to get in to your house. They may look cute but don’t forget that they’re rodents, the same family as mice and rats. And like mice and rats, squirrels always need to be chewing on something, whether it’s wood beams in your house (which can lead to structural damage), your siding or roof as they try to get inside, or electrical wires (which can start a fire or cause other injury if you come into contact with a bare wire). It’s estimated that rodents’ chewing causes up to 8% of the 1.6 million house fires in the US every year!
How can you tell if you have squirrels? You’re hearing rustling and scurrying sounds coming from your walls or attic space in the morning or evening. Squirrels are usually in their nests around these times. Look around for droppings, they’re black or brown and about the same size as a rat dropping. Do a Google search for images if you’re not sure what kind of poop you’re looking at. You’ll likely also notice a terrible odor from the droppings and urine as well as a musty odor if there is a nest in your house. Evidence of gnawing is another good indicator of squirrel activity.
What can you do? As with mice, seal up cracks and holes in your house’s walls, around doors and windows and in your roof. Put screens over vents and over your chimney. Cut any tree limbs that could provide easy access to your house away, at least 6 to 8 feet is recommended. Squirrels can become aggressive if they are cornered (they are rodents, after all); they also carry fleas and lice, so it’s always a smart idea to call in a pro to handle this nuisance wildlife.
Raccoons are not, as many people believe, rodents, but are more closely related to some wild cats. They are largely nocturnal and generally like to be near water and leafy, wooded areas but are very adaptable to new environments. More recently, raccoons have been spotted in growing numbers in urban areas, including major cities. In one study, urban raccoons were able to remove the lid from a trashcan and raid it for food, something their rural counterparts in the study could not. This ingenuity is fascinating to see, but not so great when your home is the target.
How can you tell if you have a raccoon problem? Known as Nature’s Bandit because of the black mask around their eyes, raccoons are easily identifiable in appearance alone. If you see a raccoon on your roof or near your house, you have a raccoon problem. Other signs a raccoon has set up camp on your property? Garbage strewn around, birdfeeders raided and presence of droppings.
What can you do? You know the drill by now, right? Seal up cracks and holes and cap or put mesh in your chimney and vents. Keep garbage tightly sealed in a heavy duty container, and remove bird feeders and bird baths. Also, remember they’re highly adaptable, so regularly check your property to make sure they haven’t figured out a way around your preventative measures. It’s never a good idea to engage with wildlife, and raccoons are no exception. Don’t try to corner it or chase it with a broom, as they may choose to attack to defend themselves. If you see a raccoon during the day, be especially cautious as they are known to carry rabies.
TL;DR? Don’t wait until nuisance wildlife, rodents and vermin become a problem! Use this time in early fall to inspect your property, seal up openings and trim trees within 8 feet of your roofline. And as always, call in a professional animal removal specialist who is trained to remove rodents and other nuisance wildlife.