We recently spoke with Luke Ferguson, a wildlife control expert from Florida Wildlife Busters, about how to get rid of animals in your attic or walls. Here are Luke's tips to help recognize when animals are in your attic, how to spot entry points and how to get rid of the nuisance critters.
1. What are the most common animals that you're asked to remove from attics or walls? Throughout the year the frequency of each animal changes, but the majority of the calls we receive come from rat, raccoon or squirrel problems.
2. What warning signs should alert a homeowner that they have an animal in their attic or crawl space? It's important to always pay attention to your home. Many homeowners never pay attention to the exterior of their houses. If they did they could catch loose siding or soffit before their critter problems get out of control. I often hear clients say something to the effect of, "I never come to this side of my house," when I'm performing an exterior inspection and find a very obvious hole or opening. Aside from that, animals are likely to make noise inside the attic, scratching, scurrying, scampering, gnawing, etc. It's not a good idea to ignore these noises or to assume they'll simply go away.
3. Is there one time of year more than others when animals will enter your home? Cold temperatures are always going to push more animals into homes. Even in Florida, where our winters are both mild and short, it still gets cold enough to send animals into attics and walls looking for a warm place to hide. The mating season, and birthing season directly following, tends to keep animals inside until the blistering heat of the summer months.
4. How are animals entering the home? What can homeowners do to seal up entry points? Every home has vents and construction gaps that can be pushed and manipulated by animals trying to make their way inside. In many cases, it only takes a little bit of space for a rodent to gnaw a hole in wooden soffit or siding that's large enough to squeeze through. Aluminum or vinyl soffit and siding aren't always fastened into corners and can be pushed or pulled, opening doorways directly into the attic. Worse, rats and mice can squeeze through holes as small as a 1/2”, so it's easy to miss these possible entryways. We use a number of materials including 1/4" hardware cloth, sheet metal, expanding foam, and surface bonding cement to close up any openings we can find to keep critters out.
5. What damage can be done by animals in your attic or inside your walls? The scariest part of having animals in your attic or walls is that the electrical wiring, heating and cooling, and plumbing systems typically run through these areas as well. Rats, mice and squirrels all suffer from constantly-growing teeth. Because of this, they have to gnaw on whatever they can find to file their teeth down. When they move into the attic or walls all of those internal systems may become the targets of errant chewing. This can lead to fire, leaking or contaminated air conditioning, and flooding. Furthermore, these animals carry fleas, parasites, and diseases on their bodies and in their waste that can be transmitted to anyone inside the home.
6. What methods do you use to catch and remove animals? I find that the most effective method to catch and remove animals is to seal off all of the entry points, down to the primary opening, and use live traps to trap the remaining animals inside. These methods allow us to solve the problem permanently as opposed to possibly catching the animal and leaving the home open for re-entry in the future.
7. What qualities do you look for in a dependable and durable animal trap? To get rid of animals in your attic or walls, I look for a live-catch cage trap with thick wire gauge, a heavy-duty door and a small amount of moving parts. I bought more than a dozen Havahart 1079 traps in my first year of business and all but one of them are still in use today. They're easy to set and maintain, and work for a wide variety of animals. The smaller squirrel traps work just as well. I'll continue being a Havahart® customer for as long as I'm in business and I would recommend their traps to anyone looking to catch anything.