By Anni Ranck
We’ve all heard it before: a scratching in the attic, thuds under the deck, and rooting around in the walls. These are the unmistakable sounds of a home invasion — by wildlife.
As rapid population growth and development continue in the greater-Houston area, suburban and even urban residents are more likely to encounter wildlife. The problem is exacerbated in rural areas, where development is more likely to occur on previously untouched land. With fewer places to hide, many animals head indoors in search of food and shelter. Fortunately, homeowners can make simple adjustments — many of them free or low-cost — to protect their home and property.
For example, a homeowner may spend $20 and some labor installing HardiePlank to fix a weak spot in the soffit. However, they will spend a guaranteed $500 to $1,000 on repairing the damage from an uninvited houseguest.
Winter is the Best Time for Home Maintenance
To protect your property from a wildlife invasion, plan projects such as tree trimming, yard work, and home improvements during the winter between November in January, when breeding season has ended for most animals and trees tend to be bare. Because animals are less active and foliage is sparse, activities such as tree trimming are safer and less likely to disturb wildlife.
In spring, almost every animal begins mating or preparing for mating season. Squirrel and bird nests are being constructed in the trees; rabbits are utilizing winter brush piles and overgrown grass; dens are being dug; and newborn babies need round-the-clock care.
Prevention is Cheaper than Remediation
Before starting a project, homeowners should first identify potential ways their home may become a target for wildlife. Once these problems have been identified, homeowners can follow the steps below to make their home less attractive to wildlife:
• Check for potential food and water sources in your yard, such as leftover pet food, mice, cockroaches, snakes, and even fruit trees, and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
• Avoid feeding your pets outdoors and do not feed wildlife, including birds.
• Install mower-safe hardware cloth over lawns and flowerbeds to keep animals from digging in the yard or garden.
• Attach screens over dryer vents and culverts.
• Install chimney caps and keep the flue closed when not in use.
• Trim trees away from the house. (Keep in mind squirrels can jump 9 feet horizontally!)
• Remove places for animals to hide: wood piles, brush, and clutter.
• Install lattice reinforced with wire mesh around pier and beam foundations and around decking.
• Keep trash and feed bins tightly sealed with bungee cords.
• Keep grass and latticed vines trimmed and rake leaves regularly.
• Use bird spikes or slippery angled sheet-metal on ledges to deter roosting.
• Replace all damaged siding, trim, and soffits, especially areas that are softened by dry rot. There may not be a hole today, but weakened wood is a prime entry point for wildlife seeking food or shelter. If the wood can’t be replaced immediately, consider covering the area with welded wire hardware cloth.
Before covering any holes or removing any animal from the home for relocation, please check for babies! If the wildlife moved indoors anytime between February and September, babies are probable. If you hire a pest control company, be sure to specifically ask they check for babies.
By taking these simple precautions, you can help keep wildlife out of your home and save yourself time and money.