Critter control in the Mountains
Vail CO, Colorado
One of the attractions of Rocky Mountain living is the proximity to wildlife (for the intent of this article the wildlife falls within the realm of fauna). Deer cantering across a field, a raccoon waddling through the woods, even a bushy-tailed squirrel sitting on a fencepost all seem to captivate the imagination of those of us privileged to live in the mountains.
However, in spite of our fascination with our furry neighbors, they’re not so cute when they become uninvited guests in our homes. (Yes, the irony will not escape those who believe humans are, in fact, the uninvited guests but that’s a different conversation.)
And while all intruders can be pesky and most are destructive to our property, some are much more concerning than others. Bears certainly fall into the more-than-pesky category. According to the Vail Police Department the proper procedure if you find a bear in your home is to dial 911. This certainly classifies as an emergency. They add, of course, do not go past the bear in order to get to the phone to dial 911 (apparently that advice is for those of us returning home after participating in the other ‘wildlife’ available in the Valley that, as mentioned above, we are not discussing). Bears are considered “armed and dangerous.” When police respond to a call about a bear that has entered a home, one of the methods used to encourage the intruder to depart is a pepper ball gun. The gun discharges a plastic ball, much like a paint ball, that on impact releases a powdered pepper. It’s harmless but irritating to the bear.
Food is the main attraction for bears, food of any kind ” pet food, bird seed, garbage. Bears have become emboldened over the years and some have felt inclined to bring the party indoors. Bears are very crafty at getting into a home and do so through unlocked doors (the fancier latches with the thumb press are particularly easy pickin’s), screen doors are no deterrent, and open garage doors say “come on in.” Since bears eat just about anything, animal-proof garbage containers have been an important element in deterring bears from touring a neighborhood’s “buffet line.”
Skunks and raccoons are a big home-invasion problem according to David McDaniel, owner of Mac’s Wildlife Service, a licensed professional specializing in wildlife control management and conservation. While a proactive approach such as sealing holes under roofs or chimneys where the animal can enter is important, McDaniel explains that timing can be key, and maybe not for the critter-removal layperson. For instance, in the spring animals are looking for nesting places and sealing a hole could entomb the animal in the house or the babies in the house away from the mother. That sets a whole new set of problems in motion. A raccoon, for example, could create far more damage than originally introduced by trying to get out or trying to get to its pups. Or animals trapped inside and unable to get out can perish in the walls or ceiling of the home.
Beaver can be deterred by wrapping larger trees with welded wire which takes the source of their interest from them. But, McDaniel suggests, since that just pushes the problem further downstream you may want to inform your neighbors and make it a neighborhood project.
Bats, tiny and generally gentle animals, can be good insect eliminators. However, they are probably not welcomed as tenants inside your home. Some bats can enter through openings as small as 1/2 inch so it may take a specialist to ensure that an area is bat-proof.
Here are a few tips that a homeowner can do to help maintain a neighborly relationship with our wildlife:
Trim overhanging tree branches that can give raccoons or squirrels access to reach attics and chimneys. Remove piled-up wood, brush, or rocks from the along the wall of the home which offers shelter to many creatures.
Collect fruits and nuts that have fallen from trees – it can make a tempting meal for some species.
If your pet’s food bowl is outdoors, don’t leave uneaten food in this serving tray for wildlife.
Be aware that bird feeders leave seed droppings which invite other animals to join the party. If you don’t want visitors on your deck, place the feeder away from the house.
Suntan lotions around outdoor hot tubs can attract animals. The coconut and other scents can encourage chewing on our “human ponds.”
Check gaps around doors, windows, chimneys, and the eaves of the roof. Cap chimneys and seal other areas with suitable building materials that will resist gnawing.
Check vents, such as attic or dryer vents, and purchase protective covers.
Screen in the crawlspace below decks and porches. Be aware that double fencing and garden sheds can be an ideal hiding place for mice and other rodents.
Replace rotting boards on your house to prevent an easy entry for animals.
If you have a dog or cat flap in your door, secure it once your animal is in for the night. There are also more sophisticated pet doors that involve an electronic animal door triggered by a system on your pet’s collar that only allows your pet to enter and exit.
The two keys to critter-proofing your home-sweet-home is to remove the sources of food and remove the sources of shelter. We want to live in harmony with all of our neighbors. So as we enjoy all types of wildlife and entertaining this summer, make sure you’re not sending an invitation to a guest you don’t want attending.