Wildlife-proofing your house – it’s not rocket science
It’s that time of year… Spring comes closer with every passing day, and one of the consequences of that is that wildlife are seeking a comfortable spot to make their dens. So is your home high on the desirable property list?
Put yourself in the shoes of a raccoon mom-to-be. You’re looking for somewhere warm, quiet, sheltered from the elements and predators, and if some cozy insulation material could be thrown into the mix, all the better. Normally, nature would provide those things in hollow tree stumps or tree holes lined with leaves. But in an urban environment, you might easily be tempted by some ready-made alternatives, namely: chimney, attic, basement.
To exclude or to evict, that is the question
The best thing, of course, is for there to be no way for the animal to access/enter your home in the first place. How do you prevent that? By using exclusion techniques… Note that before doing any of the following, you must first make sure that there are no animals, birds, bats… already present. This would not only mean a bad outcome for the trapped animal, but also for the residents if it dies on-site leaving behind a lasting odor.
EXCLUSION Tree limbs and attractants: First off, make sure there is no access to the roof of your house via tree limbs. If there is, trim the branches. Then make sure you’re not leaving any pet food or accessible garbage outside that might attract wildlife to your property in the first place.
Drainpipes: So you already trimmed the tree branches... However, some raccoons become adept at climbing drainpipes. If you believe that is happening at your house (you’ll usually see pawprints…), you can install a raccoon baffle very inexpensively. This uses the same principle as squirrel-proof bird feeder guards – a metal “funnel” part-way up the drainpipe, with the widest part larger than the body of an adult raccoon, so it can’t climb over… You can also wrap a section of the drainpipe in flashing/metal sheeting or other slippery surface so that climbing is no longer an option. The wrap needs to be at least 3 feet long.
PHOTO CREDIT: SQUIRREL GUARD
CHIMNEY: SANTA MAY NOT APPRECIATE IT, BUT YOU NEED TO CAP THAT CHIMNEY... IF IT’S NOT ALREADY DONE, SHINE A FLASHLIGHT INTO THE CHIMNEY TO DOUBLE-CHECK BEFORE CAPPING.
ATTIC AND BASEMENT: CHECK FOR ANY HOLES IN WINDOW FRAMES, GAPS IN GUTTERS, SIDING, VENTS, SCREEN WINDOWS, UNDER THE SOFFIT, ETC. AND GET THEM REPAIRED. REMEMBER, AN ADULT RACCOON CAN FIT THROUGH A 4” X 2” HOLE AND IS PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF MAKING A SMALLER HOLE FIT FOR PURPOSE. WE RECENTLY ASSISTED HOMEOWNERS WITH A PERFECTLY SOLID, APPARENTLY HOLE-FREE HOUSE, WHO COULDN’T FIGURE OUT HOW A RACCOON WAS ENTERING THEIR BASEMENT. WE DISCOVERED AN ACCESSIBLE MYSTERY ROOM UNDER THEIR OUTSIDE STEPS LINKED TO AN OLD COAL CHUTE THAT IN TURN LINKED TO THE BASEMENT. IF IT’S THERE, THEY’LL FIND IT...
SO AN ANIMAL IS ALREADY PRESENT IN YOUR HOME... THE FIRST QUESTION IS: ARE THERE BABIES YET? IF NOT, AND IF YOU’RE 100% SURE THAT’S THE CASE, THEN YOU CAN EXCLUDE THE RACCOON IN A COUPLE OF WAYS. FIRST BY CREATING AN UNPLEASANT SENSORY ENVIRONMENT THAT ISN’T CONDUCIVE TO A RACCOON NURSERY (IN OTHER WORDS, LOUD NOISE, LIGHT – TRY THE STROBE LIGHT FEATURE ON A FLASHLIGHT – AND BAD SMELL (AMMONIA RAGS, APPLE CIDER VINEGAR…). WE ALSO KNOW OF A VERY SUCCESSFUL HUMANE WILDLIFE CONTROL OPERATOR WHO SWEARS BY THE OUTLAST NBS30 PRODUCT – AN ECO-FRIENDLY PAINT ADDITIVE WITH AN ODOR THAT RACCOON AND GROUNDHOG MOTHERS REALLY DON’T APPRECIATE. JUST A FEW SQUIRTS AROUND THE AREA SHOULD SUFFICE. NEVER SPRAY ANYTHING DIRECTLY ON OR AT AN ANIMAL. IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO HAVE ALL 3 SENSORY ANGLES COVERED, NOT JUST ONE.
YOU CAN ALSO INSTALL A ONE-WAY DOOR AT THE ACCESS POINT. HERE ARE SOME VIDEOS SHOWING HOW A ONE-WAY DOOR CAN BE USED SUCCESSFULLY AND HUMANELY TO EVICT WILDLIFE.
IMPORTANT: NEVER, EVER INSTALL A ONE-WAY DOOR IF THERE IS ANY RISK OF YOUNG BABIES BEING PRESENT. IF THERE ARE KITS PRESENT, EVICTING THE MOTHER OF COURSE PLACES THE BABIES AT RISK OF DEATH AND THE MOTHER RACCOON WILL TRY TO TEAR HER WAY BACK IN BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE. IN THE CASE OF OLDER BABIES THAT ARE LEAVING THE DEN WITH THEIR MOTHER AT NIGHT, A ONE-WAY DOOR IS A VALID SOLUTION.
IF BABIES ARE PRESENT AND ARE TOO SMALL TO LEAVE THE DEN BY THEMSELVES: IN A SITUATION WHERE A RACCOON HAS A NEST ON YOUR PROPERTY AND YOU CAN AFFORD TO WAIT A LITTLE, DO SO… HOWEVER, MOST RESIDENTS DON’T WANT A RACCOON FAMILY IN THEIR ATTIC OR BASEMENT. YOU CAN USE THE MULTI-SENSORY HARASSMENT APPROACH DESCRIBED ABOVE TO COMPEL THE MOTHER RACCOON TO MOVE THE BABIES ONE BY ONE TO ONE OF HER BACK-UP DENS, ALTHOUGH DO NOT USE AMMONIA IN THE CASE OF SMALL BABIES SINCE IT CAN HARM THEM (USE APPLE CIDER VINEGAR OR OUTLAST NBS 30). IN THE CASE OF A CHIMNEY, PUT THE NOISE (SMALL RADIO)/ODOR/LIGHT SOURCE INSIDE THE DAMPER, YOU CAN SPRAY A TENNIS BALL WITH THE SMELL SOURCE AND ROLL IT IN FOR EXAMPLE. THE FAMILY MAY LEAVE IMMEDIATELY OR IT MAY TAKE A FEW DAYS TO WORK. BE PATIENT…
AND IN ALL THE ABOVE CASES, ONCE THE RACCOON FAMILY IS OUT, SEAL UP THE ACCESS POINT. IF A FULL REPAIR JOB IS LIKELY TO BE EXPENSIVE, YOU CAN TEMPORARILY BLOCK ANY ACCESS POINT USING HARDWARE CLOTH, AVAILABLE AT ANY HARDWARE STORE.
A WORD ON AREAS UNDER SHEDS OR PORCHES: SOME PEOPLE DON’T MIND HAVING A RACCOON/GROUNDHOG/SKUNK FAMILY UNDER A SHED FOR A FEW MONTHS FOR EXAMPLE. IF THAT PROSPECT DOESN’T APPEAL, ACT EARLY TO PREVENT CONFLICTS LATER. THE MULTI-SENSORY TECHNIQUE DESCRIBED ABOVE WORKS VERY WELL IN THESE CASES. GAPS SHOULD BE SEALED UP IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ANIMAL LEAVES.
BATS BATS IN A HOME REQUIRE A DIFFERENT APPROACH. CALL YOUR LOCAL WILDLIFE REHAB CENTER FOR ADVICE ON DEALING WITH A BAT COLONY IN YOUR HOUSE.
ONE LAST WORD: WE’RE AWARE THAT THERE ARE LOW-INCOME AREAS IN THE CITY OF PITTSBURGH WHERE HOMES HAVE MULTIPLE ACCESS POINTS REQUIRING EXPENSIVE REPAIR WORK THAT THE HOMEOWNERS CAN’T AFFORD. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN OUR ASSERTION THAT THE CITY NEEDS TO ASSIST HOMEOWNERS ON LOW INCOMES IN DEALING WITH SUCH SITUATIONS AND THAT FUNDS FOR THESE REPAIRS SHOULD BE ADDED TO EXISTING RELIEF PROGRAMS. LOBBY YOUR COUNCIL REP FOR A MORE SENSIBLE, SOLUTION-ORIENTED APPROACH TO WILDLIFE ISSUES. THE ALTERNATIVE IS REPEATED VISITS BY ANIMAL CONTROL STAFF, TRAPPING AND KILLING ANIMALS, WHILE WASTING AC’S TIME AND TAXPAYER MONEY.
CHECK OUT THE PICTURE BELOW TO DO YOUR OWN WILDLIFE-PROOFING AUDIT! NOT YER TYPICAL PITTSBURGH HOUSE, BUT YOU GET THE POINT.