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How to Animal-Proof Your Home
Animal-proofing your homeshould be at the top of your home fixup chores. The RI Department of Environmental Management receives hundreds of calls each year about wild animals in and around residences. Some, like squirrels, are just a major nuisance. Some, like raccoons, skunks, and woodchucks, are now the major carriers of the rabies strain which has reached epidemic proportions in the Northeast.
Animal-proofing your house and grounds is fairly simple, and a matter of common sense.
Check Overhanging Limbs
First, check tree limbs. If any overhang the house, trim them back. Overhanging tree limbs are a major pathway for squirrels and raccoons to reach attics and chimneys, favorite nesting places for both species.
While you're up high, check the chimney, attic vents, and the structure itself. If your chimney is not capped, screen it with one-half inch mesh hardware cloth, or cover it with a commercial cap. Replace any loose or rotting boards on your house which might provide an entranceway.
Block Small Holes
In general, all holes and openings larger than one-quarter inch should be blocked or screened with building materials resistant to gnawing or prying, such as galvanized sheet metal. If you find an existing hole, extend a metal patch six inches beyond it in all directions to prevent squirrels from gnawing around the patch. Seal all weak spots or potential entrances.
Check for gaps around window air conditioners and chimneys. Some bats, for instance, can enter cracks as small as three-eighths of an inch.
Look for Denning Sites
Back down on the ground look for areas appealing to skunks and raccoons. Skunks like denning sites such as wood piles, rock piles, elevated sheds, openings under concrete slabs and porches, and crawl spaces under houses. Raccoons will nest in storm sewers, crawl spaces, and brush piles, as well as in attics, chimneys, and tree cavities.
Low openings in buildings should be closed up with boards or screening that extends eight to ten inches underground. Openings under concrete structures should be backfilled with dirt. Debris piles should be removed or stacked neatly to eliminate cavities. Remove undergrowth and grass cover used by woodchucks by mowing around buildings.
Use mortar to patch cracks in concrete and masonry.
Garbage is a Major Draw
A major attraction for wildlife is unsecured garbage. Raccoons are very strong and patient and will get into any type of garbage can that is not securely latched or placed in a building. They will move a cinder block off the top of a can, and they will definitely open plastic garbage cans which are left outside. If you cannot store your garbage cans inside a garage or shed, use metal cans, and secure the lids with locks, straps, or tiedowns.
Be certain also that you do not leave pet food outside, as it, too, is an attraction for wildlife.
It is difficult to break an animal's behavior or movement pattern, so it is important to take action at the first sign of a problem, and even better, to animal-proof your home before the first sign of visitors looking for a new place to live.
Remember, although rabies is deadly, it is also generally preventable in humans if three basic rules are followed: