Raccoons, opossums, and other wild animals can cause many issues for your home. Not only can they do structural damage, but they can also create entry points for other pests to invade. Additionally, wildlife pests may create fire hazards, and become a danger to people and pets.
While it may be disturbing to see a wild animal inside your home, you shouldn't try to get rid of them on your own. Continue reading to learn about the wild animals in your backyard that can sometimes make their way into your home, what to do to handle them, and how to avoid wildlife pests from making your home their home.
Wildlife Animals That Can Be A Nuisance For You And Your Home
Bats, skunks, and raccoons are some of the most common wild animals that find their way into homes. Once inside, they may choose to nest in a quiet place in your home, such as the attic or basement. However, once they've made their way inside, they can create costly and annoying problems, such as ripping apart ducts, destroying insulation, creating a foul smell due to droppings or urine, gnawing wires (which can pose a fire hazard), and more.
While many animals that find their way indoors are often looking for a way back out into the wild, it's important to take safety precautions when approaching these animals if you find them in your home. Wildlife can carry rabies, an illness that can be lethal if left unchecked. According to the CDC, each year, roughly 5,000 people in the US are exposed to potentially rabies-infected wildlife and require treatment. The most common culprits behind these rabies cases are bats, which account for 70% of all cases.
Read on to learn more about the different types of wildlife that may find their way into your home or onto your property, what attracts them, and when professional wildlife control is needed in this abbreviated pest guide.
Raccoons are nocturnal creatures scarcely seen during the day. They are easy to identify by their typically grey fur and a black band around their eyes that resembles a mask. Raccoons also have bushy, ringed tails and paws that resemble tiny, clawed hands. Raccoons can be found throughout the continental U.S., but they are more abundant in the forested eastern regions than in the drier western lowlands.
These critters will eat just about anything, from berries, nuts, bugs, mice, eggs, and even snakes. They also have a penchant for raiding dumpsters and garbage cans for scraps.
Raccoons can be a nuisance if they infest your house, causing loud noises and scattering trash. They have also been known to destroy walls, floorboards, and shingles. If you have a raccoon population outside on your property, you may see signs of these critters such as droppings (which may contain parasites and pose a danger to humans), as well as tell-tale tracks or claw marks on decks, lawn furniture, walls, or near drainage pipes and gutters.
The opossum (sometimes referred to as a “possum") is the only marsupial in North America. Marsupials are mammals and are unique in that they're the only species to have a pouch on their abdomens. Opossums are solitary and nocturnal creatures. Opossums are sluggish and emit a nauseating odor when threatened or they “play dead" to deter predators.
Opossum removal should only be done by a professional as these animals can carry pathogens that may cause disease including toxoplasmosis and trichomoniasis, which can result in parasitic infections. They can also be infested with parasites like mites, lice, fleas, and ticks. As diverse eaters, opossums like to forage on trash cans, woodpiles, and fallen berries.
Read more to understand how you can identify opossum tracks and distinguish them from raccoon tracks.
Tree squirrels get their name from their woodland prevalence. These are the everyday squirrels you may see scurrying about on your lawn, sometimes burying acorns and other food to stash away for later. They range in color from reddish brown to grey and can be easily identified by their bushy tails.
Tree squirrels nest, dodge predators, and gather food in foliage-heavy areas. If they get inside your home, squirrels squirrels can cause many issues, such as noises in the attic and walls, holes in siding, broken bird feeders, chewed wires, and damaged attic insulation.
Flying squirrels are smaller than tree squirrels and other species of squirrels. They extend the skin fold between their front and hind limbs to create a sort of parachute that enables them to jump – or glide – from tree to tree, giving the illusion that they're flying.
Though these creatures are relatively harmless, due to their small size, they can easily slip into your home and squeeze through small cracks or gaps in a structure. They only become pests when they reside in your attic, creating a stench and destruction with their urine and disturbing your rest with their nighttime activities. Like other types of wildlife, they may carry pathogens that cause diseases like typhus, as well as parasites such as fleas, mites, or lice.
Flying squirrels are social creatures, so if you see one, it's likely that there are more inside your home. They typically only attempt to come indoors when temperatures drop, seeking shelter during cold winter weather.
Rats have long been a threat to public health, given their status as a root cause of epidemics such as the "Black Plague" in Europe and rat-bite fever. These rodents have also been known to contaminate stored food and nibble electric lines, causing power outages or increasing risk of electrical fires.
Rats are larger than mice and have hairless tails. (Mice tend to have a light dusting of fur on their tails and are smaller.) The ultimate opportunists, rats will go anywhere there is ample food, water, and shelter. Signs you may have a rat infestation on your hands include rat droppings, hearing their squeaks and scratching, and gnaw marks on areas they've chewed through in order to get to food, such as cereal boxes or plastic containers.
The house mouse is one of the most adept rodents when it comes to assimilating into human society. You can find them practically anywhere humans are, dining on human food, dwelling in human structures, and breeding at an astonishing rate. Once inside your home, due to their relentless chewing, mice can cause a lot of damage to property – gnawing on baseboards, food storage areas, and wires – potentially causing electrical fires.
Skunks are easy to identify by their furry black bodies with a thick white stripe running from their head, down their back, and down their tails. Although most skunks are striped, some are actually spotted.
While they may appear cute, skunks have powerful feet and lengthy nails designed for burrowing. Although these creatures are typically not aggressive, when threatened, they will issue a warning to predators – lifting their tail. If these predators do not back off, the skunk then emits a foul smelling spray from beneath its tail, dousing the offender in a smelly defensive maneuver. This spray can travel up to 10 feet, but you can smell the resulting odor much further away.
Skunks can be beneficial to your property, as they eat common garden insects. However, they can also be a nuisance due to their digging, leaving behind holes in the lawn. When digging for food or refuge, they can cause severe damage to foundations, electrical cables, and plumbing.
Groundhogs frequently invade fields and vegetable gardens, damaging or consuming produce and landscape flora, as well as leaving large holes in the landscape. Groundhogs are slow sprinters, but they dash to their dens when they detect danger.
Armadillos are mammals that are easy to identify by the thick, bone-like plates that cover their head, back, legs, and tail. They reside in the southern part of the United States and typically prefer warm climates.
In terms of diet, the armadillo is actually somewhat beneficial, eating such pests as termites, fire ants, and spiders. These creatures use their strong legs and sharp claws to dig tunnels to forage for food and shelter on your property. Armadillos can create large holes in yards or pastures that can cause injury to humans or larger animals, especially horses and cattle, which can be expensive to rectify.
While they are not aggressive animals, an armadillo can potentially carry pathogens that may cause such diseases as leprosy and rabies, which is why it's important to leave armadillo removal to professionals.
Bats are nocturnal, flying creatures that prefer to live in dark, isolated places. The CDC cites bats as the leading cause of rabies deaths among humans in the US. In addition to the risk of rabies, the fungus found in bat excrement can induce histoplasmosis, a lung illness.
Bats can be attracted by dead trees in your yard and can get inside your home through open windows, chimneys, or any gaps or cracks in your roof or siding.