Winter is hard on everyone, including local wildlife. Whether they’re scrounging for food or just trying to keep warm, winter may wild animals near your home. Mice, squirrels, skunks, and raccoons all tend to look at homes as valuable sources of food and shelter when the snow starts to fall.
The problem with animals using your home for shelter is they’ll create some trouble for you in the process. Raccoons will make a mess. Squirrels damage your roof and walls. Mice chew through electrical wires and start fires. And we don’t have to tell you what a problem skunks are! Here’s what to know about the wildlife around your home this winter, and what you should do about them:
Mice need to sneak into homes to survive the winter. Luckily for mice, they’re very good at sneaking into homes. They can smell even faint aromas from surprisingly far away, through tiny openings. They’ll follow scents all the way to their sources. The rodents locate ways into a building by feeling for drafts created by a gap. Even the smallest gap will do, because mice can squeeze through dime-sized holes.
Despite their small stature, mice are big problems for a home. They chew through wires, insulation, wood, cloth, pipes, and more. Their waste can stain flooring, ruin furniture, and even spread disease. Mice find their way into homes by following utility lines like gas and electricity. Look for gaps around where utilities enter the home and seal them off. Mice may also follow heat given off by ventilation. Ensure you have covers over vents, and replace the covers every two to three years.
A common misconception about squirrels is that they fatten up so they can hibernate. In fact, squirrels stay highly active through winter; they need that fat to stay warm while they keep hustling! Many squirrel species even mate in winter. These squirrels look for warm places to raise their young. Squirrels commonly stash their food underground, but that’s not the only hiding place they’ll use. Excellent climbers, squirrels can easily access roofs, chimneys, gutters, and vents.
If squirrels enter your attic, they’ll stash food there, burrow into insulation, or even establish a nest. Burrowing squirrels chew through insulation, wiring, siding, and even roofing. Squirrels can fit through small openings, and may chew through damaged siding or shingles. Inspect your roof and attic for damage annually. Have damage repaired quickly and effectively. Keep seeds, bird seeds, nuts, and other squirrel food from accumulating on your yard or in your garage or attic.
Skunks don’t hibernate, but during winter they’ll enter a hibernation-like state called torpor. To enter torpor, skunks have to fatten up. Once they’ve acquired a thick coat of fat, skunks create a winter burrow and hunker down. While they can dig their own burrows, most skunks prefer to use existing structures–structures like your home. It’s not uncommon for skunks to overwinter under porches or decks.
Skunks awaken from torpor occasionally and leave their winter burrows. Newly awakened skunks spray or bite if they feel threatened. They may also disturb trash cans while looking for food. The best way to keep skunks away this winter is to deprive them an easy burrow. Use wire screening to block off the area beneath your porch or deck. Skunks sometimes burrow under fencing, so you may have to invest in buried mesh fencing. Keep your trash secure to deprive skunks of another attractive burrowing amenity.
Raccoons don’t hibernate or enter torpor. Instead, they stay active–and annoying–almost all winter. When it starts to cool down, raccoons go into overtime, scavenging for food to store up fat. When it gets seriously cold out, these fat stores enable raccoons to hole up in their dens for weeks. A raccoon’s fat only lasts so long, however. Eventually, raccoons have to re-emerge to fatten up again.
Raccoons become a problem when they get into the garbage. The masked bandits of the animal kingdom are notorious dumpster divers. They often sneak into garages to climb inside garbage cans. Raccoons aren’t aggressive, but they may bite if they feel threatened. Before you take the garbage out, seal it in airtight plastic bags. Wash out any disposable containers before throwing them out. Don’t let garbage sit in your can for longer than a week. Wash your outdoor garbage cans out seasonally, especially if you don’t bag your garbage.
Wildlife reacts to winter the same way we do: by eating a lot, staying inside, and trying to keep warm. It’s not hard to understand why wildlife would want in on your living situation. Unlike humans, however, animals have natural adaptations that help them survive the winter. They’ll be fine without you, so don’t feel bad about kicking them to the curb.
If you need some help with that, let Varment Guard know today. Our experts can deal with any wildlife problem you could throw at us. We’ll make sure animals can’t disrupt your cozy winter hideout again. Stay warm!