Protecting Your Home From Critters
As temperatures drop, the Humane Society of the United States urges homeowners to take time now to prevent conflicts with wildlife this winter.
These simple tips will help people avoid unwanted visitors like raccoons, skunks, and squirrels that may seek warmth and shelter in chimneys, attics, garages or sheds during the cold weather.
According to Laura Simon, field director of urban wildlife for the HSUS, "We get more phone calls from panicked people in the wintertime about critters huddling in their attics and chimneys, than about anything else that time of year. People do not usually do a thorough pre-winter inspection of their home, and they don't even think about it until after a raccoon or squirrel has already made a warm shelter for itself in the attic or chimney.
"It's vital to make sure, however, that there are no animals already in the attic -- or other parts of the house -- before you close up holes," she cautions. "People often seal holes and then find, to their dismay, they have sealed an animal inside. Simple preventive steps can be taken, and early November is optimal for people to do a check inside and outside the home for wildlife."
Inspect attics with a flashlight for any signs of animals. If any hole is found, always assume an animal is present and never seal up holes until you have done a thorough inspection and are 100 percent sure that all animals are gone.
To inspect, turn off lights and look for any outside light leaking in, which will show potential holes that could be entry points.
You can test if a hole is being used by most animals two ways: put white flour in front of any holes and check for footprints, or stuff the hole loosely with a paper towel and see if it gets pushed in or out.
If after three days the paper stays in place, or you have no flour footprints, you can close up holes. Use caulk for small holes, staple hardware cloth over larger holes or make permanent repairs.
Take caution, though, when it comes to bats. Bats won't leave tracks or push through paper, and they are very difficult to see. So they require a different type of inspection.
Look carefully on the attic floor and on insulation for rat-like pellets that are a bit shiny and friable. Also check the entire attic ceiling and rafters for the bats themselves. Bat entry holes tend to be greasy.
Check the chimney from the roof (or have a chimney sweep do so) to make sure there are no animals present -- then install a chimney cap. This is the easiest and most effective way to keep wildlife out.
Look for loose vent screens, warped siding, or roof holes and make permanent repairs once you have completed the attic alert.
Look inside your home behind appliances (washer, dryer, fridge, etc.) and anywhere else pipes enter. Spaces around pipes are common entry points for small animals, such as mice.
Fill holes around pipes with copper wire mesh and use expanding foam on cracks and along leaky windows and doors. (Bonus: This will also save money on the next heating bill!).
-- Always secure trash containers with bungee cords, ropes, or weights, or put trash out the morning of collection, not the night before.
-- Keep branches trimmed six feet away from the house to limit access for roof-climbing wildlife, and clean debris, especially leaf piles, around the house foundation.
-- Cover and secure compost piles. Never compost meat scraps.
If after this inspection, animals are still finding their way inside the home, visit www.wildneighbors.org for additional tips and for information on humane methods to encourage animals to leave.
The HSUS Wild Neighbors Program promotes nonlethal means for resolving conflicts between people and wildlife and cultivates understanding and appreciation for wild animals commonly found in cities and towns.
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