Thursday, January 24. 2019
The first step in learning to live with wildlife is to understand that animals are instinctively driven to satisfy the four basics of life; territory, shelter, food and water. Unfortunately, in pursuing these necessities they are interfering with our way of life by causing, structural damage, health concerns, noises, odours and anxiety.
To maintain a positive relationship with our urban wildlife we need to appropriately control their access to shelter and food opportunities within our communities. Even when animals already occupy a den site, they are constantly creating entry holes in other roofs as backup nesting areas. To reduce conflicts a property and building inspection should be conducted to identify what wildlife attractions exist and what prevention measures should be implemented.
Effective Community Organized Wildlife Management (COWM) has to address the following:
- Is food easily accessible?
When wildlife is drawn to continuously available food sources, there are noticeable repercussions to contend with. Increasing numbers of wildlife will migrate into the immediate area to live off the available food. Wanting to stay in close proximity to food they look to establish den sites nearby. With an increase in animal populations in the immediate area, more intrusions into buildings can be expected.
Occupants should be advised not to feed wildlife since it attracts raccoons, squirrels, skunks, birds, rats and mice. Of even greater concern are the documented cases where the feeding of one species has attracted another species, such as coyotes. Not to be neglected, green bins, garbage cans and dumpsters containing food refuse must be locked shut or kept indoors until the morning of garbage pickup.
- Will trees or vines allow animals to climb onto the roof?
When surveying buildings and their immediate surroundings we need to think like an animal. Raccoons and squirrels will use their remarkable climbing capabilities to scale trees or vines in an attempt to investigate a roof for potential entry points. To prevent these animals from gaining easy access to the roof, all tree limbs should be cut back 3 meters from the roof edge. While raccoons cannot jump, squirrels are acrobats and are able to leap a horizontal distance of approximately 2 meters. As to vines, they need to be trimmed to 1.5 meters below the overhang. Implementing this approach will eliminate the most common access. Occasionally, determined animals may use the more difficult route of climbing up outside walls and downspouts to get onto the roof.
- Can animals get underneath porches, decks and sheds?
Skunks, incapable of climbing, dig under structures that sit directly on the ground. While raccoons prefer to live in attics from the fall to early summer, they may move to ground level structures when the attic spaces over heat.
To prevent wildlife from getting under a structure requires digging a trench around the entire perimeter, fastening galvanized screen in an “L” shape configuration and then back-filling the trench.
- Are the stove and bathroom exhaust vents protected?
Mostly birds and the occasional squirrel will use wall vents as ready-made nesting boxes. The existing plastic vent cover presents no obstacle whatsoever against animals seeking entry. Once inside the vent pipe starlings will construct large nests, sometimes 1 meter in length, often blocking the air flow. With up to 6 fledglings defecating in this confined space, breeding insects and obnoxious odours are a most undesirable consequence. An easy solution to prevent these intrusions is to fasten galvanized screen on top of the plastic vent cover. The screen installation must, however, not interfere with the normal functioning of the vent flaps. Warning: Dryer vents should not be screened, as this would cause the accumulation of lint against the screen and inside the pipe, thus presenting a fire hazard.
- How often are roof-tops inspected?
In our Canadian climate roofs are exposed to a wide variety of weather conditions. Strong winds, freezing and hot temperatures, heavy rain and snow all take their toll. Furthermore, animals looking for den sites will break off shingles resulting in exposing roof boards to the elements. Conducting a minimum of two inspections per year will reveal areas where the roof repair is needed, thereby avoiding water damage and potential mold. Wildlife has the innate ability to locate and exploit areas where damage went undetected and water has caused the rotting of roof and fascia boards. In this context, eavestroughs need to be cleaned before winter sets in to assure unimpeded water flow away from the building. Twenty percent of all wildlife entry holes are created where water from clogged eavestroughs has caused the fascia board and overhang to deteriorate.
- Are roof vents, plumbing mats and chimneys animal-proof?
These structural components were strictly developed from a functional perspective. Even today, animal prevention is not a vital part of their design. Therefore, to make them animal-proof they need to be reinforced with galvanized screen covers. The pressing need to secure these components cannot be over emphasized since nearly sixty percent of all animals identify them as an easy point of entry.
Checklist for effective Community Organized Wildlife Management (COWM):
- Make food waste inaccessible.
- Refrain from feeding.
- Cut back trees and vines that provide roof access.
- Inspect roofs often and repair weather or animal related damage.
- Consider wildlife-proofing measures for porches, decks, sheds, exhaust vents, roof vents, plumbing mats and chimneys.
- Hire a professional humane wildlife removal company to solve existing wildlife intrusions and to implement wildlife-proofing measures. Contract experienced wildlife technicians to ensure the survival of the animals, especially during the baby season.
By Brad Gates, B.Sc.
Brad Gates is the owner and president of AAA Gates Wildlife Control. He has over 35 years experience in the humane wildlife removal and prevention industry.