Animal-Proofing Your House
Some animals that come into the backyard are fun and relaxing to watch, some aren't. How many times have you had to clean up after the raccoons, or been woken up by their drum solos. Rats and mice are annoying, dirty, unwanted guests. Bats can make a lot of racket with their nocturnal parties. Skunks can, well, skunks are just smelly. All these animals come looking for food and shelter. The best way to keep them from coming is to animal-proof your house so they won't find what they're looking for and have to move down the road. There are three major steps to animal-proof you house: eliminate source of food, eliminate shelter and access to your house and getting rid of an animal that gets in your house.
Eliminate Source of Food: To eliminate one food source, pick up any fruits or nuts that drop from your trees. The dropped food is an easy buffet for raccoons and other prowling creatures. Another source of food is garbage. Keep your garbage in the garage, until garbage day; when this isn't possible it is important to get air-tight garbage cans with lids. If you have some particularly clever raccoons, this might not stop them. Then get a rack in which to place the garbage cans so that they can't be turned over.
- Tip: If the raccoons keep getting into your garbage, try adding one cup of ammonia to the garbage bag before you close it up. The smell drives raccoons away and keeps them from spreading the garbage all over. After a while they learn to not even open the garbage.
A compost heap can be food to many animals. You need to keep the compost covered with a heavy lid and avoid putting meats into it. Pet food is another source of food for wild animals. If your pet is an outdoor animal, try not to leave its food lying about. Feed it and when it is done take the food away.
Eliminate Shelter and Access to Your House: The first thing to do is make sure that you don't have any cracks or holes that lead outside. They could be on the roof, in the house or foundation. If you find these problems, just caulk or patch them. Another access is the vents that are in your attic, which is a great way for bats to get in. Just screen these vents off with insect screen.
- Tip: Wait until dusk to patch any holes in the attic if you have bats. This way all the bats are out of your house and won't be able to get back in.
Protect window wells with plastic window well covers. This keeps animals and water out. Some animals are diggers so you want to put screen under your deck or porch. You may have to embed it into the ground to keep raccoons and skunks from digging under a porch or deck. It is also important to protect your chimney. Birds and animals tend to think of this as a perfect nesting area. The best way to keep them out is to put on a chimney cap. (If only they had one in "The Birds!") These can be bought at your local hardware store and they are easy to install. Another thing to protect is your dryer vent. Your local hardware store can sell you protected dryer vents, which are very easy to install. Of course, even with your best efforts, occasionally animals do get in.
- Tip: Sometimes animals or birds get into the chimney. The best way to get them out without hurting them is to put a panful of ammonia into the fireplace. Close the fireplace doors and open the flue. The smell of the ammonia goes up the chimney and after a short while the animals clear out. When you are sure that there are no more animals up there, put on a chimney cap.
Getting Animals Out of House: The first thing to do is to leave the animal alone. Don't chase it around and don't try and pick it up yourself. Some animals carry disease and can bite through gloves. If you give it room it will probably leave the way it came in.
- Tip: If a bat is in your house, don't be afraid, bats rarely bite. The best thing to do is open a window. Then close off the room from the rest of the house. Turning out the lights helps. With the lights on, a bat seeks a dark place which is usually your furniture or curtains. The open window gives it a way out and eventually a bat leaves on its own. (Don't go chasing it with a baseball bat, it won't help.) If they are in the attic, wait until dusk and then find the hole they used to come in and patch it up. The hole might be small, a bat can squeeze through a crack that is only 1/2 inch.
Some animals enjoy your home and just won't leave. In that case you can try trapping the animal. There are a wide variety of live traps that don't kill the animal. All you have to do is bait them and wait. The bait you use depends on the animal. For a chipmunk or a squirrel, peanut butter works best. Sardines are good bait for raccoons or opossums while tuna fish works on skunks. Corn cobs work for rabbits and woodchucks.
If you catch the animal in the trap, transport it to some woods or take it to a wildlife agency. They can then release the animal. Make sure you don't do anything with the trap or animal without gloves on.
If you don't want to trap it yourself or you've trapped it but don't know what to do next, you can call animal control or a pest control agency.
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