Preventing animal intruders
Animal offenders, such as raccoons, squirrels, bats and birds, will find shelter and nesting places where they can. That might be your home, particularly your attic. This is especially true when cold weather hits, or during the spring and early summer when babies are on the way.
The problems animals can create surpass the mess, odor and health concerns stemming from their urine and feces. Animals in the attic can damage duct work and insulation, as well as wiring, which can create a fire hazard.
Follow these suggestions for preventing animals from getting into your home:
Examine your home inside and out for areas susceptible to entry, repairing any rotten wood or loose shingles and sealing even small gaps. Bats, for instance, can get in your attic through a half-inch crack. With your roof and siding, look for loose vent screens, warped siding or holes. With your chimney, be sure there's a cap, preferably fitted with a screen. Keep your flue closed when not in use. Be sure there are no attic entry points in soffit vents and fascia. Make sure the attic exhaust fan opening is properly installed and covered.
Trim trees, or hire a tree service, so branches don't lead squirrels or raccoons directly to your house.
Follow this idea to cover utility wires that squirrels may traverse to get onto your roof and into your attic: In a 4-foot PVC pipe, cut a line from end to end. Slip it over the wire. When the squirrel tries to walk across, it will slip and fall like a lumberjack losing a log-rolling contest.
Repel raccoons by tightly covering outdoor garbage cans. Consider putting trash out in the morning of collection instead of the night before.
Be wary of flap-style pet doors, which can be an entryway for unwelcome animals. Consider electronic doors instead.
Do-it-yourself wildlife control
Be aware that evicting animals from your ahome may be a long process. It's not wise to simply seal entry points because trapping animals in the home will create a bigger problem. If you're unsure of the extent of the infestation, or you can't find the entry points, hire professional wildlife control service.
Squirrels: Lure squirrels out by placing a pile of sunflower seeds where they will find it when leaving the attic. Move the pile further away each morning while observing how many squirrels visit. Seal the hole when you're confident all are out.
Raccoons: Use the same general idea as with squirrels. After dark, leave a bowl of cat food in the yard. Watch for the raccoons. If you're sure they are all out, including any babies, seal the hole. Be aware, though, that other animals may be attracted to the food bowl.
Bats: Place a bat house near the opening, covering the opening to the attic with a large mesh screen. Secure it on three sides, leaving the bottom loose so bats can leave but not return. Seal the bottom once you're sure they're all outside.
Birds: Birds don't usually want to be in the attic, so help them out by placing a bright light near an exit. Then, seal the entry point.
Video: How to Deal With Squirrels in Your Home
Hiring an animal removal expert
For any number of reasons, including safety and convenience, you may prefer to hire someone to remove animals and deal with the follow-up. When selecting an animal removal expert, consider these aspects of service:
Full service vs. basics: Some companies focus only on removing animals and don't do any repair or prevention work. Know what services you want before you call so you don’t waste time.
Methodology: Some companies offer humane trapping and relocation vs. more lethal means of removing animals. Some offer alternatives to poisons. Know what you want before you call.
Size matters: Some companies focus on small animals while others handle only with those squirrel-sized or larger. Companies focusing on bugs and rodents might not deal with wild animals at all. Be sure you know what services your prospective critter catcher offers.
Pricing: You may see one animal but there may be many more in your home. Be clear about how the company you use charges. Most charge by the number of large animals, although some will count babies as one adult.
Dead or alive: Animal removal companies will often remove carcasses that local governmental agencies, usually called Animal Control, will not. This may involve having to get into crawl spaces, attics, or break through walls, so be prepared for additional costs depending on how difficult it is to reach the critter.
No matter who you hire, be sure to ask about licensing, training and experience and get everything in writing. A good contract for any home project can give you a better chance at satisfaction in the short run and the long term. Also, consider an Angie's List membership, which provides you with local consumer reviews for animal control experts and more than 500 other service-provider categories.