Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).
A Guide to Common Animal Intruders
Be ready for that panicked call from clients who suddenly find they’re sharing their home with a member of the wildlife community.
March 7, 2017
Before homeowners can take action regarding wildlife that has entered a home, they need to know what kind of critters they’re dealing with. It may be that your clients haven’t actually seen an animal but have heard telltale sounds coming from the walls, ceilings, or attics.
Be sure to check out the feature in our March/April issue on the impact wildlife can have on your clients’ homes, as well as on real estate transactions. Here are some additional tips for identifying and dealing with some of the most common home intruders.
Extermination is not the best solution because bats make a valuable contribution to the ecosystem by eating flies and mosquitoes. Moreover, several species are legally protected. Adding a bat house outdoors provides an alternate place to nest, says Brian Ogle, an anthrozoology instructor at Beacon College in Leesburg, Fla. Because bats tend to reproduce in the spring, homeowners should be especially vigilant against offering entry points at that time of year. Bats are creatures of habit that roost in the same place over and over again (typically in spring or summer), so it’s important to get them out and seal off access areas, says bat expert Neil Tregger, co-owner of Hudson Valley Wildlife Solutions in Troy, N.Y. His firm does so with one-way doors that allow bats to leave but not reenter. Homeowners should work with a specialist who knows an area’s rules regarding proper removal, which varies by area and state.
Homeowners will likely have to hire a professional to humanely remove squirrels and seal access points. Homeowners should cut down tree limbs that extend within 8 to 10 feet of a roofline to discourage easy access inside.
Because rodents are known to spread more than 35 diseases, homeowners should contact a licensed pest control expert for periodic inspections, treatment, and removal if they are spotted. It can be very difficult for a typical homeowner to locate where rodents are coming into the home, where they are nesting and breeding, and the true extent of infestation. That’s because mice can squeeze through openings as small as a dime, and rodents could be residing in more than just one location inside a home. The NPMA says experts can also help seal up entry points and suggest where to prune foliage and branches that may be good hiding spots for these creatures.
To keep them away, homeowners should repair damaged screens, install chimney caps, replace loose mortar and weather stripping, keep garbage cans secured and with tight-fitting lids, keep attics and basements well ventilated and dry, remove ripe fruit from trees, and keep pet food indoors to avoid attracting these critters and others.
Commercial deterrents and shiny ornaments can be effective, says Brian Ogle, lead anthrozoology instructor at Beacon College. Many plants, such as hostas, will attract them, so if these appeal to you, ask your local nursery or pest exterminator what local plants they’ve found can discourage nibbling. Homeowners should also know that some plants generally won’t appeal to deer looking for food, such as anything that smells like rosemary, lavender, sage, or mint, says landscape designer Michael Glassman. If homeowners want to add a fence, advise them to build it tall enough since deer can leap quite high.
To remove them, New York–area licensed specialist Jason Gagadorn likes to bait a trap with Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, or apples. “It may require multiple efforts to coax them in,” he says. He cautions that local regulations vary regarding removal and extermination of these intruders.