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Animal Intruders Lead To Problems
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Homeowners must face continuous efforts to keep their houses in good condition, and when animal invasions occur, people struggle to win a battle against nature.
Mississippi residents often face small intruders, such as mice, wanting to share their homes, but other unwelcome guests may also become home invaders.
"Squirrels, raccoons, bats and birds will occasionally come into homes that have unsecured vents, chimneys or other small openings," said Phil Mastrangelo, state director of Animal Damage Control.
Many people deal with problems caused by wild animals at some point, but problems inside houses can be the most disturbing and damaging. The best way to handle animal invasions is to prevent them and quickly resolve any problems that develop.
"Tree squirrels often enter attics through openings on the roof, such as the eaves, gables or vents," Mastrangelo said.
Dr. Frances Graham, extension housing specialist at Mississippi State University, recommended preventing climbing animals from coming inside by trimming trees away from walls.
"Secure with heavy screen all openings that lead to the interior of a house. Check the screens periodically to be sure they remain secure and in good condition," Graham said.
"The first step for solving an animal invasion problem is to determine how the animals enter the house," Mastrangelo said. Once animals are in a house, use live traps to catch them unharmed.
Mastrangelo said several control methods used simultaneously are often more successful than a single control.
For squirrels in attics, try to drive them out or wait until they leave to find food. Then make repairs to prevent them from re-entering. One or more baited traps are important for catching any squirrel accidentally closed in because locked-in squirrels may cause damage when they try to chew their way out.
"Poisons are not generally recommended to eliminate animals from houses because they may result in undesirable odors from animals that die in out-of-the-way places," Mastrangelo said.
Raccoons can also become a nuisance and cause damage when they enter attics or chimneys.
Mastrangelo said raccoons are learning that uncapped chimneys substitute well for more traditional hollow trees as denning sites. In extreme cases, they may tear off shingles or facia boards to enter an attic or wall space.
Graham recommended securely fastening a commercial sheet metal cap and heavy screen over the top of chimneys to prevent raccoon access. This also prevents birds from nesting in chimneys.
Mastrangelo warned homeowners trying to remove home invaders in the spring and summer that young may also be present.
"Raccoons frequently use uncapped chimneys as dens, raising the young on the smoke shelf or the top of the fireplace box," he said.
One of the most disturbing animal intruders is the bat. Bats can squeeze through narrow slits and cracks, and often enter homes through open windows or unscreened fireplaces. Locating and removing individual bats from houses can be hard but it is important.
"Some people construct bat houses, which are similar in design to bird houses, to provide a roost that may deter bats from seeking shelter indoors," Mastrangelo said.
When any animal becomes a problem inside a house, check state and federal laws before deciding whether to kill or trap it. Always guard against contact that may result in the transmission of disease.