As cold weather sets in, a warm home can be a comfort to more than people. Wild animals seeking food and shelter may lead to close encounters that homeowners want to avoid.
“Some people draw wildlife into neighborhoods or onto their properties by offering foods such as seed or suet, throwing table scraps out back, improperly storing garbage, outside pet feeding or maintaining a grease-loaded grill. Litter— even discarded candy — also will attract wildlife,’’ the Pennsylvania Game Commission noted on its website.
An internet search turned up suggestions for keeping wild animals away, stressing to keep property clean, including tidying up food spills inside and cutting grass and weeds outside as well as regular trash pickup.
The Humane Society noted, “While you may not be keeping close tabs on the condition of your house, you can bet the critters in your neighborhood are. It’s recommended to assess the condition of your residence a couple of times a year to keep wildlife intrusions and other problems at bay.’’
That means closing cracks an animal might squeeze through after making sure no animals are inside.
“Plug suspect entry points loosely with insulation, paper or cloth that any animals who may be using the space inside can easily push aside,’’ the Humane Society directed. “For a few days, check to see if the material has moved. If not, you can seal the opening.’’
The society also recommends:
Foundation: Check for openings and animal activity where pipes, vents and cables exit the house. Window wells, dryer exhaust vents, thresholds and gaps in brick or siding can all provide possible entryways. Holes smaller than a few inches can be caulked, stuffed with copper mesh or filled with expandable foam. Larger openings should be repaired to original condition.
Roof: Look for loose vent screens, roof holes and warped siding or trim board that is deteriorated and pulled away from the wall.
Attic: Use a flashlight to search for droppings, signs of chewing and nesting material. Pay attention to the intersection of roof and trim and any gable or exhaust vents. These are often covered with light bug screen that will not stand up to squirrels and raccoons. A 16-gauge 1x1-inch steel mesh is recommended for raccoons. For squirrels, solid aluminum flashing is the exclusion material of choice.
Chimneys: Check inside by shining a light up the flue and from the roof (or have a chimney sweep do it) to make sure no animals are present. Once clear, install a chimney cap.
Other tips: Secure trash containers or put trash out the morning of collection. Keep tree branches trimmed six feet away from a house to not only limit access for wildlife, but to prevent damage to the roof that may allow animal entry in the future.
Here are some suggestions for homeowners who do find animals:
Mice: The game commission recommends setting traps baited with cheese or peanut butter, placed where mouse droppings or damage has been found. Set more than one trap and move them around until mice are caught. Don’t stop until sightings and damage stop.
Bats: If a bat finds its way into living quarters, Penn State Extension advised wear gloves, place a container over a perched bat and scoop it inside. If temperatures are above freezing, the bat can be released outside. If temperatures are below freezing, keep the bat in a box overnight until temperatures rise in the day. If a bat appears during a prolonged deep freeze, contact a local wildlife rehabilitator.
Spiders: Penn State Extension said reduce woodpiles and debris outside the home and frequently clean inside storage areas and garages. Close openings in exterior walls and install weather stripping and thresholds at the bottom of doors. Leave firewood outside until ready to use.