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Communications February 19, 2019

Trapping: A Short-Term Solution to a Long-Term Problem

Raccoons, squirrels, opossums, bats, and snakes – they’re the animals homeowners love to hate. These adaptable species often invade homes in search of food and shelter. Left unchecked, they can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Although wildlife relocation may seem like a humane option, the practice can be costly, ineffective, and detrimental to animals. Frustrated homeowners often turn to pest-control companies for wildlife removal, only to discover their services are ineffective.

Short-Term Solution

In most cases, relocated animals cannot adapt to their new surroundings, no matter how lush their new home appears. Species that stockpile large quantities of food, such as squirrels, are especially prone to starvation if moved too far away from their food source. According to a 2004 study by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, 97 percent of gray squirrels relocated to a forest either died or disappeared from their release site within three months. Other times, these newcomers are killed by rival animals defending their territory or by speeding vehicles.

The animals that survive relocation often come back to haunt well-meaning homeowners. Because Texas law requires some species to be released within 10 miles of their trap site, many relocated animals return home within a few days of being released. Mothers who are separated from their babies are especially determined to return to the nesting site. In fact, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to pay a pest-control company to relocate an animal multiple times, not realizing that the same animal has returned. The best option is to keep animals within their native habitat to maintain balance in the area.

The data-supported reason for this is found in the adage: nature abhors a vacuum. Relocate 100 raccoons, and 102 will move back. When animals are removed from their territory, it’s like putting up a flashing vacancy sign. If a species’ population drops below a critical level, females will have more litters per year, and the litter size increases accordingly.

How to Protect Your Home

Animals target homes with accessible outdoor food and damaged exteriors. Once an animal enters your home, you need to decide the seriousness of the situation. Is it simply a bird’s nest on your porch or a rat’s nest in your walls? If you can’t wait for the animal to leave, act fast! Ridding a home of animals in the winter and fall is much easier than in the spring and summer when babies are likely involved.

First, locate all possible entry points for wildlife. To monitor the movement of wildlife within your home, you can stuff entry points with balled-up paper or plastic grocery bags. If the material hasn’t been moved in three to four days, it’s safe to repair the area. If you discover an area in use by wildlife, experts recommend making the area uncomfortable so the animal will leave.

Non-lethal methods, such as bright lights, loud music, Cayenne pepper, and mothballs, can turn a quiet den perfect for nesting into an undesirable location. If these methods work, the animal may decide to leave temporarily for a more comfortable den. To ensure these animals don’t return, repair all entry points and remove all food sources.

Unfortunately, most wildlife-removal techniques are costly and rarely work once you develop an infestation. That’s why the best tactic is always prevention. You can make your home less attractive to wildlife by making the following improvements:

  • Don’t leave pet food and water outside (If you feed strays, only set food out at certain times and remove it promptly afterward).
  • Ensure trash can lids are secure. To prevent determined visitors, secure trash lids with cords. Keep firewood and logs at least 2 feet above the ground.
  • Make sure branches do not extend over or near your roof (Keep in mind squirrels can jump 9 feet horizontally).
  • Repair any holes or weak points in the siding. Look for entry points near exhaust fan openings, kitchen and bathroom vents, chimneys, and above gutters.

By following these tips, homeowners can save money and address the cause of an animal invasion rather than treating the symptom.