This past Sunday, my wife and I awoke to the pitter patter of little feet in our home. It was not our children, because long ago they left gentle footsteps behind them in favor of the thundering stomp-stomp-stomp of teenage boys. It was not our grandchildren because we do not have any. It was not our pet because our fish has not evolved feet yet. I dismissed the problem as squirrels on the roof.
A few moments after we heard the footsteps, we heard a steady crunching from above our heads. I could not live in denial any longer. Something – squirrels I assumed – was in our attic. Left with the choice of calling a pest removal service or venturing into the attic on my own, I chose the rather unmanly alternative and called a pest removal service. I know, I should not be so quick to spend money but, what else could I do when faced with the possibility of being in a tight, incredibly hot space with potentially rabid squirrels?
My wife was dubious of my reasoning too.
Nevertheless, Jim, from a local wildlife and pest control company, was quick to answer his phone on a Sunday morning and was at my home by 1pm the same day. He investigated our attic and found (and photographed) fecal matter, evidence of burrowing and other signs that pointed to…rats! I grew up in a suburb and I live in a suburb now. I had always thought that rats were only for city buildings. I was wrong and my attic showed the signs of it.
Jim then went up on to my roof and photographed signs of animal activity on the roof – chewed shingles and chewed vent pipes for the most part. When Jim got to the back of my house, however, he found that I had more than rats. Jim’s words said it best (especially when accompanied by photos of the damage): “When I told you that you had rats in your attic, I was only partially right. You have a raccoon up there. It’s coming in to feed on the baby rats.”
I was stunned. I had a menagerie living upstairs and it was playing out a daily Animal Planet horror show! “Yep,” Jim continued, “you’ve got your pinkies and your fuzzies. Raccoons – or maybe it’s a big possum – just love to feed on them because they are defenseless.”
Completely disgusted but feeling justified that I called in experts, I asked Jim how much it would cost to remove the pests from my home and to seal all of the openings. Jim did a quick calculation and told me that the damage would be about $1300. I did not bother to negotiate. I wanted the critters out of my attic and I wanted them out fast. I also knew that Jim was reliable because several of my neighbors have used him and I trust their judgment.
I asked Jim what I could have done differently to have avoided this cost and he told me that there really was not much that I could have done. He pointed out that houses in Florida are built to withstand hurricanes but not assaults by squirrels, rats, raccoons and other animals. Any opening in a roof that builders leave unfilled is either big enough to allow entry or to allow an animal to create a big enough entry. The only way to avoid animals in the attic, at least in Florida, is to inspect your house for openings regularly. He also reminded me that most homeowners do not even know where to look for openings
I also learned that animals cause a significant percentage of house fires in the USA because they chew through wires, thus exposing them. According to Jim, more than 1 in 10 fires start because of animal activity. Accordingly, when you hear the pitter patter of little feat in the attic, you should not ignore it. If you are brave enough to deal with the problem, here are the steps that Jim and his team are taking to rid my house of mammalian pests:
Repair All Entry Points into the Attic: All entry points – holes no matter how small – must be repaired to prevent more animals from entering your attic. As long as you have holes in the roof or soffits, animals will be able to continue to come and go as they please into your home, and that they will do so because the animals that live in your attic will already have left a urine trail marking the way to get in.
Set Traps in The Attic: You can use humane traps or lethal traps, but do not use poisons as they can leach into your home and cause problems for residents and pets, especially if the homeowner ever wants to go into the attic again. The animals will not start visiting the traps for a few days because they will have stored up food in the attic already. When they do spring the traps, empty them quickly, especially in hot climates. Rats decompose quickly and both maggots and blood flies are quick to find their rotting bodies. That is not a trauma you want to experience.
Neutralize the Animal Scents: Animals follow the scent of the urine of other animals. You need to eliminate that scent in order to discourage future animal visitors. I have never purchased neutralizer so I cannot give a personal recommendation here. Instead, I encourage you to check out the neutralizers available at hunting stores or pet stores.
Watch for Pest Removal Trucks on Your Street: Jim explained that when all of the entries to my attic are closed, the animals will move to the next house on my street. If you see a neighbor is having pests removed, it is probably time to have your attic inspected so that you can at least know whether the entry points are there for invasion.
I suppose I could save a substantial part of the $1300 that I spent to rid my home of pests by doing the work myself. Truth be told, I don’t care. I don’t want to retrieve dead animals from my attic and I really do not want to be attacked by angry animals on my roof while I try to fix the openings. I just don’t want the animals there. Besides, Jim told me that the last house he visited did not just have rats in the attic. There was also a five foot long snake in there, feeding on the rats. Call me a wimp or call me a coward, but I know that if I encounter a five foot long snake in my attic, I will be coming down in a body bag. I hate the cost, but I am pleased that I probably could not have avoided most of it.
What pests have you had to evict from your home? How have you handled it? Do you hire help or do you take care of it yourself? What tricks do you have to keep pests out of your house?