We all like to satisfy our winter needs for a warm, safe place with plenty of food in the pantry. But so do rodents and other animals. When these pests intrude on our property, it becomes a situation much like kicking out the unwelcome kid next door who is constantly coming over and staying past dinner, and insists on using everything in your house for his own purposes. There are three types of animals to watch out for as it gets colder out: rats, raccoons, and opossums.
The general types of these rodents that exist in your home can include the Norway rat, the roof (or black) rat and the house mouse. Roof rats usually stake out attics or cabinets and can climb quite well. Norway rats choose to live in the ground by digging burrows against foundations, tree trunks, and gardens. Their burrows can lead into crawl spaces and small openings around pipes which can enable them to inhabit your kitchens and bathrooms.
No matter the type of rat that lives in your home, you can be sure that it will be attracted to any food item you have in your pantry, especially high-quality food products such as meat and fresh grain. If you have pets, be extra cautious about foods being left out, because rats will smell and detect dog food that is sitting out.
Rats need one-half to one fluid ounce of water everyday when consuming dry foods. They have extremely sharp senses of taste, hearing, and smell. Once they are aware of what is within their reach and given their keen senses, rats will do anything to get to food or shelter. Overall, rats are able to enter a building through openings that are wider than half an inch across. Rats have a very short life span — most die within a year. However, rats can breed rapidly, so even though they die off quickly, their young will survive them. Female rats produce five or six litters of about half a dozen to a dozen young each year.
Now that you know a little about the rat’s habits, how can you tell that you have rats living alongside you in your home? Spotting droppings or visible signs of fresh gnawing should be an obvious indicator of rats. Rat tracks can appear on dusty surfaces or mud. Rats usually build runways and burrows to get into your home and they can be found next to buildings and under debris and low vegetation.
There are many things you can do to prevent rats, but what about the rats you know are already snooping in your attic and dark corners?
Snap traps can be used along with baits to attract rats. However, once other rats see that a fellow rat has been killed from a snap trap, they will avoid it at all costs. The other drawback to using a snap trap is the potential health hazards it can cause when the rat is killed by the trap. Snap traps can also pose a danger to children or pets in your home, as they can break bones or cause an even more serious injury.
Glue-boards are traps that use non-drying glue to capture and hold down rodents. These traps can be placed under tables, furniture, next to walls, refrigerators, or any place where you suspect rodent activity. Glue-boards are designed to get the rodent stuck on the board so that they cannot escape. Like the snap traps, glue-boards can pose health problems if rats’ bodies are pulled apart and exposed in your home.
Live traps are probably the easiest and most inexpensive rodent control out there. The other benefit of live traps is that it poses less risk or danger to animals you are not targeting, such as your pets. They also do not kill rats, unlike all the other methods discussed above. Instead, rats are captured and left in the trap until you dispose of them. Be sure to place enough bait to attract rats. If rats are without food, they may become anxious and eventually die, leaving behind their bodies to decay, as well as a horrible stench. Try to find areas where there are a lot of rat droppings, chewed entry points, and any other place you suspect rat activity or have heard noises from.
Here are some simple rules of thumb you can adopt to prevent a rodent invasion in your home:
Store all your accessible food in rodent-proof containers such as glass or metal
Place your trash in tightly covered metal cans to prevent smells from escaping or potential rodent entry.
Check your faucets to make sure they are functioning properly and to fix leaks as they occur, since gaps or holes around pipes can serve as easy entry points for rodents.
Seal up any unnecessary openings with concrete or sheet metal. For other access points, a 1/4 inch hardware cloth or steel wool should do the trick.
For pet owners, put any uneaten pet food away before you go to bed, as any pet food left out is subject to rodent consumption!
Wipe your floors often! Any bits of food left on your floor may be game for mice.
The most common commensal rodents, raccoon and opossums, are known to many homeowners as troublemakers because of the damage they can cause by hibernating in your attic or wreaking havoc in your garden.
These animals normally hide out in attics, under decks, sheds, garages, crawl spaces, etc. Sometimes, they choose to live in naturally formed holes near foundations. Raccoons and opossums especially have an affinity for digging in yards and garbage. They love to inhabit attics where they can care for their litter in a warm, dark, and enclosed environment. If they are living in your attic, chances are your attic has a strong odor, which can eventually make its way into the living area. Besides odor problems, raccoons can destroy your insulation and chew on any electrical wires present.
Preventing Animal Pests
Here are some ways you can prevent those pesky raccoons and opossums from entering your property:
Spray a non-chemical solution over the areas where these animals are prone to dig or consume food. This will leave a bad taste in their mouths and will discourage it from going to the same place to cause trouble.
Use a non-drying glue when animals are climbing your bird feeder poles. Once the raccoon or opossum gets the glue from the pole on their paws, it will usually irritate them enough to discourage them from climbing the pole again.
Implement a 24/7 motion detector near your fish pond. The motion detector will be able to detect the animal when it is in its range. The detector is non-chemical and will release a three-second spray of water to scare the pest away.
For raccoons and opossums who are already inhabiting your home, trapping with a bait (usually meat) is the most effective and viable way to get rid of them. However, you should only handle raccoons and opossums if you are an experienced handler. If you are not sure what to do, the best idea is to call an animal removal service. Anteater Pest can send a trained professional out to the property to identify, inspect and design a program for you. The Exclusion portion of Anteater’s Rodent Service is designed to:
Identify rodent and rodent damage
Inspect conditions conducive to rodents
Seal/Close entry and exit points
Return and remove traps
Include a 1 Year renewable warranty
Once you are armed with the right facts and materials, you should be able to handle rodents quickly and efficiently before they overstay their welcome in your home and ruin your holidays.