IKO has helpful information and tips to get them out and keep them out
North America is home to a wide variety of wildlife. We’ve all heard the expression “bats in the belfry” but what about squirrels in the attic, raccoons on the roof, birds in exhaust vents and other critters you’d prefer to see in nature, not in your home?
In this article, we’ll answer these questions for you:
Animals are most likely to break in and enter your home in spring, when it’s mating season and they need a cozy place to nest and in fall, especially in northern climes where they seek warm shelter from the coming cold of winter.
These uninvited, unwelcome visitors may announce their presence by sight, sound or smell. If you hear animals on your roof, notice animal droppings on your roof or actually see critters moving under the eaves or physically entering your home, first walk around your house and check things out from ground level.
Look for these telltale signs of entry:
Inside the home, examine your attic. Look, listen and sniff for these signs:
Squirrels are most active during the daytime; nocturnal animals in the attic include racoons and bats. The footfalls of squirrels, rats and mice are light and scurrying but those of raccoons are slow and heavy. Some animals vocalize; others are silent. You may hear noises overhead in the attic, on the roof or inside chimneys, walls, ducting or exhaust vents.
Some homeowners experience infestations of insects such as termites and cockroaches, incursions of snakes and even encounters with bears; but this article will focus on the five most common animals that can damage your roof and get into your attic. They are:
We’ll discuss the kind of potential damage each can cause as well as how to get rid of animals in your attic and prevent future incursions. We recommend that you always hire a professional to remove unwelcome animals from your home. They’re well-trained in animal behavior and safe, effective, legal and humane removal techniques. They’re also aware of local bylaws concerning protected species.
You don’t want to be one of the many homeowners who reportedly fall off ladders or otherwise get hurt when an animal suddenly startles them or bites. Also, be aware that physically removing the invaders is likely just the first step. Animal feces in the attic must also be removed and the area thoroughly disinfected because urine, droppings and ticks that various creatures carry can cause your family serious illness or disease.
These woodland but increasingly urban creatures are related to the panda bear. They may look cute and cuddly with their bandit-mask eyes, luxuriant fur, ringed tails and tiny fingers, but raccoons are particularly destructive and can transmit serious diseases to both humans and pets.
They have the physical strength and dexterity to rip the shingles right off your roof or to pry up the soffit and fascia in order to get into your attic. Usually, they’re seeking warm, safe shelter to birth their young. Mother raccoons are territorial and fiercely protective.
Their entry points can leave gaping holes for rain and snow to penetrate, potentially causing serious water damage, leaks and mold growth. Inside their new lair, raccoons can damage insulation and wires by chewing on them, raising the risk of fire.
People usually associate raccoons with rabies. Although this is an extremely dangerous disease, it’s less common than many others they can cause. Rabies is caused by a virus spread through the raccoon’s saliva. If you or your pet is bitten by a raccoon, seek medical attention immediately.
Squirrels are very entertaining to watch, as long as they stay outdoors. You don’t want them inside your home. In the fall, they will travel up to 50 miles in search of a suitably warm habitat. Squirrels can gain entry through the same access points as raccoons, only much more easily because they’re not as large.
They can run across power lines or land on your roof by launching themselves through the air from a nearby tree or neighboring roof. Once inside, these destructive rodents build nests by using their teeth and strong claws to gnaw through wires and PVC pipes, to chip up exposed wood and to rip up insulation.
A squirrel will rarely get close enough to bite, unless you or your pet corners one, the animal feels threatened or it’s trying to protect its young. Apart from the physical damage these members of the rodent family can cause, they can also transmit serious illnesses to both humans and pets.
It’s not uncommon to have a bat or bird flying around inside the main living spaces of your home. In the summer, birds can easily enter the home through a patio door or window that’s been left open. Once you’ve shooed it back outside, check your attic. It’s unlikely, but possible, that others may be nesting there. If you have a bird inside your home when windows and doors are tightly shut, the chances are greater of having a problem in the attic.
On the other hand, if there’s a bat flying or perching upside down inside your living quarters, it’s a sign that there may be a whole colony of them in your attic. They love dry, secluded spaces where they can safely shelter from predators.
If you see a bat colony in your attic, deal with it immediately because bat colonies – and their guano deposits – can grow very large very fast. Bat droppings create an extremely offensive odor. They are also so acidic and highly corrosive, they can eat through building materials, destroying wood and rendering insulation less effective.
Bats can access your attic through a dime-sized opening, making your home extremely vulnerable to their infestation. Once they, and their guano deposits, have been removed, the entire attic must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, then any compromised building materials must be repaired or replaced. It’s not unusual for bats to carry the rabies virus. If you or your pet have been bitten, seek medical attention immediately.
Pigeons and starlings are among the most common bird species that typically enter and roost in your home. Starlings like to nest inside stove pipes and bathroom exhaust vents, whose heat acts as an incubator for their nestlings. In addition to making a lot of noise and creating unpleasant odors, starlings and their droppings can attract and cause infestations of insects, including cockroaches.
Pigeons are much larger than starlings and can carry several very serious diseases in from the wild; one of the most serious is meningitis. Adequate protective gear must be worn when removing the birds, including face masks. This is one more reason why you should hire a professional and not attempt to do this yourself.
Bird droppings on the roof create a slippery surface. Not only that, these droppings are so highly acidic, they can damage asphalt shingles and compromise their integrity. They may also provide nutrients that encourage the growth of algae or moss. Nesting materials are a hazard too. They can be dirty and infested with insects, or they can clog exhaust vents, raising the risk of fire. In rain gutters, nests can block water flow and cause it to back up and potentially infiltrate the roof under the shingles.
Read IKO’s advice to professional roofers about birds.
Rats and mice are among the most common pests to invade a home. It’s often thought that they’re attracted to garbage and clutter, but the truth is that these pests don’t care how dirty or how pristine and clean your home is as long as it can provide them with safe, warm shelter and a food source. They are most likely to come indoors in the fall, especially in wintry climates.
If you find droppings or see just one rat or mouse, you can be fairly certain there will be more because they reproduce very quickly and in quantity. A single mouse can excrete 70 fecal pellets a day. Over a year, that can add up to 25,000 droppings from just one mouse!
Mice often enter a home from ground level, and they can squeak through a crack no more than a quarter inch wide. Once inside, they can travel up walls between the studs throughout the home and into the attic. Rats may appear large, but they can enter through holes the size of a quarter.
Rodents are dangerous because they can gnaw through wood, wires, PVC pipes, insulation – even concrete – damaging your property and creating a fire hazard. Rats and mice can also be vectors for many diseases that can affect humans and pets either directly through their feces, urine or saliva or indirectly, through fleas, ticks or mites that have fed on an infected rodent, dead or alive.
Hornets, wasps and bees are the tiniest tenants that might take up residence in your attic. It’s interesting to note that honeybees will not because the summer heat in an attic can reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The smart little honeybees seem to know that the wax in their hives will melt at 130 degrees Fahrenheit and cause their hives to slide down, so they choose to make their nests in the cooler shade of your eaves!
Flying insects like the quiet, inactive nature of the attic where they can nest and go about their business undetected and in peace. The greatest danger they pose is that they will bite or sting their human hosts.
If you do find a hive on your home’s exterior or worse, inside the attic, it’s best to have it removed and reduce the risk, especially if someone in your family is allergic.
Your family’s physical health is the most important reason that all pest problems be dealt with immediately and professionally, although protecting your property against potential fire and other damage is also important.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. It’s much easier and more cost-effective to prevent animals from getting into your home than it is to have them removed once there.
Here are a few things you can do to keep critters outside your home where they belong. Start by closely inspecting your home from the ground up:
As mentioned above, there are plenty of good reasons to have a professional remove any kind of animal from your attic or vents; but, if you feel you can safely manage it yourself, here are a few tips.
This is a harder question to answer than many homeowners think. It’s an important one to discuss with your insurance broker.
In general, a standard home or mobile home insurance policy will cover damage to your home that’s caused by a wild animal. Raccoons, opossums, skunks, birds and bats are considered wild animals, but take note that rats and mice are not. They are rodents, and the damage they cause is typically not covered by insurance. Insect damage resulting from bees, wasps, termites and roaches may or may not be covered.
Also be aware that the damage must have occurred in one single, well-identified event in order to be covered, not over a time period when you could have taken some preventive action but did not.
It’s impossible to provide an estimate in this article. There are too many variables, including the type of animal, the service’s practices, how advanced the infestation is, etc. We hope this article has shown you what the potential cost might be in terms of property damage and your family’s physical well-being, if you do NOT have these animals removed.
We strongly recommend that you hire a professional to deal with any animal or pest problem in a safe, legal and humane way.
If you decide to inspect your home for possible entry points, always take proper safety precautions when using a ladder, for example.
Roofing professionals and animal removal experts often collaborate. Ask an IKO contractor to recommend a qualified service that provides humane animal removal in your area.
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