Snake season in Georgia starts in spring and runs through late fall. As the temperatures start to warm up, snake activity in our area will increase. As snakes emerge from hibernation, they will go in search of one thing: FOOD! This quest will often lead them into our backyards, gardens, and even local parks. With snake season just around the corner, now is the time to take action. Here are some snake prevention tips to help you prepare for snake season.
Clean Up Your Yard
Snakes will use anything they can find for cover. Take the time now to clean up leaf litter, fallen logs, piles of bricks and rocks or anything else snakes can use as a hiding spot. If you can’t remove them, try to elevate them off the ground. Keep your lawn and any other surrounding areas with grass mowed short. Snakes will use tall grass as cover. Low hanging growth from trees, shrubs, hedges, etc. provide natural places for snakes to climb and hide. Keep them trimmed back from your home and off the ground. Discard any mulch or grass clippings away from your property as snakes will burrow into these for a sheltered hiding space.
Inspect Your Home
Snakes will use holes in the exterior of your home to gain access inside. Carefully inspect the outside of your house for holes, making sure to check under roofs, under the house, in skirting, on garages, etc. Repair or block any openings that you find.
Snakes will often go after hatchlings and bird eggs. If you have chickens, ducks or any other birds, make sure their pens or aviaries are kept tidy and in good repair.
Eliminate Food Sources
Snakes will feed on rodents, frogs, and other insects. Keeping these pests away from your home will help keep snakes away, as well. Clean up spilled or uneaten birdseed from underneath feeders; keep outdoor trashcans sealed with tight lids; feed your pets indoors when possible; if you must feed outdoors, feed once or twice per day and bring food and water bowls indoors in between feedings; seal pet food and bird seed in plastic or metal containers with tight lids.
Moisture also attracts rodents, frogs, and other insects that snakes feed on. Eliminating moisture will help make your property less attractive to snakes. Eliminate any areas of standing water; fix leaky pipes and spigots; try to avoid overwatering your lawn; consider enclosing your crawlspace.
Get Routine Pest Control
Establishing a routine pest control service helps prevent nuisance pest problems before they get out of hand. By keeping these pest populations under control, you decrease the risk of snakes by eliminating potential food sources.
Most snakes that are encountered are non-venomous; there are some venomous snakes in our area that you should be careful to avoid, however. If you must be outdoors during snake season, wear long pants, long sleeves, gloves, and closed toed shoes. If you go outside at night, take a flashlight, lantern, or torch. If you do encounter a snake, don’t go near it and don’t try to kill it. Stay calm, keep your pets and children away, and allow the snake to move away on its own. Back away slowly. If you choose to, contact your local wildlife control company who can come and properly identify the snake and safely relocate or eliminate it.
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Main living areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms are all places that homeowners want to ensure are pest-free and wildlife-free year-round. While these spaces are always important to keep free of pests, it’s equally important to prevent them from entering the “forgotten rooms” in your home, as well. These forgotten areas include your basement, attic, and even extra storage rooms. Unfortunately, many homeowners are so focused on keeping the main living areas pest-free that they sometimes forget these other areas too.
Wildlife critters and household pests are looking for three things: water, food, and a warm environment. These three elements are easily available inside every home. Your attic is the perfect room for wildlife to make their home and for a pest to infest. Wildlife such as raccoons, squirrels, and birds can make their way through any openings or gaps leading into the attic. Sealing up any entry points is always a great start for wildlife prevention. Check your attic for any holes or gaps and seal them up immediately. In addition, inspecting your attic insulation is key to household pest prevention. Proper attic insulation can help prevent bugs such as roaches or ants from making their way inside.
Basements will often contain moisture by way of standing water, which provides pests and wildlife a plentiful water supply. Water is one of the main sources of attraction for pests like termites and millipedes. Cutting down moisture is essential to pest prevention. A moisture barrier for your crawlspace and a gutter protection system for your roof are great investments to help eliminate any standing water. These investments both help ensure that water is not filtering into your crawlspace and basement area.
If you suspect that you have a pest or wildlife infestation in your home’s “forgotten areas,” consider reaching out to your local pest control company. A professional will inspect these areas and provide you with a prevention and treatment plan.
When cold weather hits, winter wildlife go in search of three things: food for their bellies, water to quench their thirst, and warm shelter to keep them safe. When the going gets tough, these winter pests have to get creative in order to survive – often by making their way into your attic, chimney, basement, or crawlspace. While it’s beneficial for them, it can cause serious damage to both your home and your health to have them sharing space with you.
How do you know if you have a stowaway for the winter? Common signs of wildlife include:
- Scratching sounds coming from your walls or attic
- Chirping or squeaking sounds coming from the walls, vents, or attic
- Garbage cans and bags that have been broken into
- Chewing or gnawing marks in the basement or attic, or through wires or cardboard
- A foul smell that lingers even after cleaning (which could be urine or feces)
Now that you know what to look for, what kinds of animals can cause these signs? Some of the most common winter wildlife include:
- Raccoons: These nocturnal omnivores use their hands to dig for food, especially in your garbage cans. Raccoons are the largest carriers of rabies in Georgia (along with skunks, bats, foxes, and coyotes). Raccoons can damage property, spread rabies, and spread ringworm. They are most likely to nest in chimneys and attics.
- Rats and mice: These rodents like to live in crawlspaces and between the side beams in your walls. They will venture out to make trips to your kitchen in search of food. Rats and mice carry and spread salmonella, along with fleas, ticks, and lice. Their droppings also contain pathogens that can be dangerous to humans. They are avid chewers and will often chew through electrical wiring, causing property damage and increasing the risk of fires.
- Squirrels: These are the most common rodents in Georgia with populations in the millions. These pests like to take up residence in attics and basements and will bring in tons of acorns to store for the winter. Squirrels, like their rodent cousins, also carry diseases and pathogens, both on themselves and in their droppings. They can also chew through wires.
- Birds: Although less common than other winter wildlife, birds can be just as dangerous. Birds like to infest chimneys and attics to nest and lay their eggs. Their droppings can cause quite a mess and also harbor diseases and parasites. They can also cause severe damage to roof lines and chimneys. Many birds are protected so bird control and bird nest removal are usually best left to the professionals.
- Bats: Bats like to roost in attics where they can hide during the day and venture out at night. They carry disease like rabies and can spread them to humans through their bite. Bats are a protected species in Georgia and killing them is prohibited.
Prevention is key to avoiding a winter wildlife invasion. Critter control starts at home with these winter wildlife prevention tips:
1. Inspect Chimneys
Chimneys provide a great hideout and also a gateway for wildlife to get into your home. Make sure the top of your chimney has a grated screen that is in good repair with no holes. Check above the flue panel for any leaves, debris, droppings, or animals before sealing it up. Make sure your chimney is secure.
2. Inspect Foundations
Small holes, cracks, open pipes, etc. in your foundation provide easy routes for wildlife to get into your home. A careful inspection of your foundations should be performed every season throughout the year. Seal any openings as you find them.
3. Inspect Roof and Siding
Any tiny cracks or openings in your roof or siding means easy access to your attic. Check the entire exterior of the roof, starting with the intersections and siding. Make sure to also check the flushing seams on the roof. Siding that connects to the roof should not be warped or pulled away. Be sure to check around exhaust openings and for loose vent screens, as well.
4. Inspect the Attic
Many wildlife critters love to hide out in the attic. Use a flashlight or headlamp and thoroughly inspect this space, checking for openings or chewed up or damaged areas of wood. Seal any holes you find but always make sure the animals are not still present before you do.
5. Secure Trash Containers
Your trashcans offer a buffet of food sources for pests. Use cans with tightly securing lids, avoid overfilling them, and wash the bins regularly to get rid of food waste.
6. Maintain Landscaping
Branches and limbs offer squirrels, raccoons, and other creatures a bridge directly into your home. Keep trees and shrubs trimmed away from the house. Prune shrubs to keep them at least 12″ from the sides of your home. Trim any branches that overhang or touch your roof, as well.
7. Clean Up Food
Leaving food sources outside your home will just attract wildlife in. Try to avoid leaving pet food outside and tossing scraps or pouring leftover grease in the yard. Pick up any fallen fruit. Protect your gardens with fences that are designed to keep animals out. Clean up any spilled birdseed from feeders and bring them in overnight.
Wildlife control is an ongoing process that needs special attention and consideration, especially in the cold winter months. If you have a problem with winter wildlife, contact your local pest control company for an inspection and appropriate treatment or wildlife exclusion plan.
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While some people consider pigeons a minor nuisance, they can actually be harmful to humans. Pigeons are the most common nuisance bird and are also responsible for the worst public health concerns caused by birds. Pigeons are capable of spreading more than 60 pathogens to humans, mostly through their droppings. Besides the obvious means of transmission by handling pigeon feces, what many don’t realize is pigeon droppings that are left on cars, windowsills, and even the street can dry into a powder that can be blown into the air and inhaled. The most common diseases spread by pigeons are E. coli, histoplasmosis, and salmonellosis.
Pigeons are also capable of damaging and destroying your property. Nests can interfere with the functioning of air conditioning units and electrical elements. Pigeon droppings can also accumulate, causing surfaces to become slippery. Their feces can also deface and deteriorate buildings and other structures.
Pigeons prefer to nest in small, flat areas that are off the ground (e.g. ledges, air conditioning units, pipes, and window sills). They eat a varied diet, consuming anything from grains and livestock feed to discarded food scraps and manure. They must have water daily to survive.
Pigeons adapt easily to their environments, including those that are manmade. They will travel up to 5 miles between their nesting and roosting sites, making it very difficult to get an established flock to move. Their homing capabilities allow them to easily find their way back to their original nesting sites.
Get rid of nuisance pigeons with these bird prevention tips:
- Discourage people from feeding these birds in public areas.
- Clean up any spilled grain or feed daily.
- Make food and water sources as inaccessible as possible.
- Block building openings such as lofts, vents, eaves, window sills, and steeples) with wood, metal, glass, masonry, wire mesh, plastic or nylon.
- Change ledge angles to 45 degrees or more as this discourages roosting.
- Place netting over ornamental architecture.
- Screen the underside of rafters with netting or wire mesh screening.
- Install a permanent mechanical bird repellent like bird spikes to help eliminate roosting.
If you suspect you have a problem with pigeons or any other nuisance pests, contact a professional pest control company for a free evaluation.
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The last thing any homeowner wants is damage to their yard after all the hard work they’ve put in to get it just right. One of the most destructive pests to yards is the mole. What attracts moles to your yard? How do you get rid of them?
Moles are burrowing insectivores, feasting on a wide variety of lawn insects. They are usually about 6 to 8 inches long with gray to black velvety fur. Moles have slender, hairless snouts and small eyes and ears. They have large front feet with long claws that they use to dig through the dirt. They breed in early spring and are most active then and in the fall. Other than during mating season, moles prefer to be alone; if you have a mole problem you are usually only dealing with one.
Moles are attracted to food sources in your yard, digging through leaving behind tunnels, holes, and mounds of dirt. Moles require quite a bit of food to survive. Common signs of moles include: surface tunnels, dying grass and plants, an increase in weeds, and molehills (which are piles of dirt less than 6 inches tall and shaped like footballs or volcanoes). Moles can dig up to 18 feet per hour. As they dig they detach the roots of plants which not only allows weeds to take root but also kills the lawn, plants, and trees.
- Eliminate food sources. Primary food sources for moles include earthworms, grubs, ants, mole crickets, and other lawn insects. Use products specifically labeled to treat these pests and employ methods to minimize their presence in your yard to also help prevent moles from coming in search of them.
- Don’t overwater. Moles like soft, damp earth (and so do earthworms, which they love to eat). Try not to overwater your lawn to limit both mole and earthworm activity. Most lawns only need 1″ of water per week (whether through irrigation or rain). Set sprinklers on timers and turn them off on days it rains. Try to water early in the morning so the water has time to evaporate before nightfall, helping keep the soil dry.
- Apply repellents. Moles dislike the smell and taste of castor oil. Most mole repellents utilize this as the base product, making them effective at deterring them from your yard. Mole repellents should be applied monthly while moles are active.
- Use traps and baits. These methods are best used in fall and spring when mole activity is at its peak. The first step is to identify an active runway the mole is using. This can be done by poking holes in the top of a tunnel and watching it; if the damage is repaired within 1 to 2 days, that is an active tunnel. Place the trap or bait in this active tunnel.
- Call a professional. Moles can be difficult to eliminate without the professional expertise of a wildlife control specialist. These technicians know how to track moles, where to place traps, what baits to use, how to treat the tunnels so new moles don’t replace the eliminated ones, and how to monitor the tunnels to ensure the moles have been removed properly.
If you have a problem with moles or any other wildlife, contact your local pest control company for a comprehensive evaluation and elimination plan.
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The temperatures have dropped, the warm heat is running throughout the house, and we are all bundled up under a blanket come nightfall. While we enjoy the indoor warmth, the creatures outside could be a bit envious. Most wildlife animals are looking for shelter to keep them warm and provide them with a food source. We breakdown some common wildlife that roam about during the colder months and why they can be harmful to your home and family.
One common pest encountered in the fall and winter is the Norway rat. These rodents are most active at night, when they begin their search for food and water. They exist in large numbers and are known to produce up to 5 litters per year with an average of 7 babies per litter! If given the opportunity, Norway rats will enter through open holes and gaps leading inside your home. If they gain access, they can be dangerous as they will chew electrical wires, putting you at risk of house fires.
While raccoons can look cute to some, having them destroy your property is not ideal for any homeowner. These animals are talented, capable of using their paws to open doors and lids. They often live in hollowed trees or caves but can also sneak inside the attic and garage to find warmth and food. Once these pests find a food source, they will keep returning to search for more. This can be not only dangerous, as there is potential they could have rabies, but it is also a nuisance as they can cause considerable damage to your roof or inside the home.
Squirrels spend most of their time in trees foraging for food. While these animals might look harmless, they can easily become a threat if they find themselves inside your home. These pests are looking for a food source and will commonly invade bird feeders, garbage cans, and attics. If access is gained into your attic, squirrels can cause damage to the wood, insulation, wires, and even storage boxes. Their urine and droppings can also contaminate attic insulation, which can be extremely costly to replace.
If you suspect that one or more of these wildlife creatures have gotten inside your home, it’s best to contact your local wildlife control company. A professional will be able to locate any entry points, create a customized plan, and prevent them from returning in the future.
The last thing anyone wants to encounter when spending time outdoors is a snake. In Georgia, there are 46 native species of snakes and only 6 of those are venomous (the copperhead, pigmy rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, cottonmouth, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, and eastern coral snake). Although they can be quite scary when stumbled upon, they are actually quite beneficial to have around. Snakes are top predators, eating rats, mice, and other small mammals. Some even eat other venomous snakes! There are only an average of 8000 snakebites nationwide each year.
Snakes are most commonly found in backyards, parks, and woodlands. Many species will spend most of their time underground, only coming out to hunt and feed. Larger snakes will often shelter in brush piles or stacks of firewood. Water snakes are usually found in areas that border streams, lakes, swamps, and ponds.
Snake season officially begins in the spring, usually around March or April, and runs through late fall and winter. The end of snake season depends on weather patterns and geographic locations. In southern states with warmer climates, snakes will remain active longer than in northern states when it gets colder sooner.
Because snakes are coldblooded, they are less active in cooler months. Where do snakes go in the winter? Many snakes will go into a state of brumation, which is similar to hibernation but doesn’t require the same amount of sleep. In brumation, snakes will wake to forage for food and water, especially during warm snaps when temperatures increase periodically. Because they use less energy, they can go longer between feedings.
If you encounter a snake, whether outdoors or inside your home, there are a few tips you should keep in mind:
- Familiarize yourself with the venomous snake species common in your area and how to recognize them.
- Try to identify the snake without getting too close to it.
- Give the snake space.
- If spending time outdoors, wear closed-toed shoes and long pants.
- Remove any brush, log piles and other attractants for rodents from around your home.
- Seal up any cracks, gaps, and holes that snakes can use to get into.
- Remember that non-venomous snakes are protected by law in Georgia.
Although snake bites are rare, it’s best to leave handling and removal of snakes to the professionals. If you encounter a snake in or near your property, contact a wildlife control company who can safely and quickly remove the offending snake.
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Many of us enjoy the pleasure of bird watching and seeing these wildlife creatures in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, some birds tend to take over houses and make them their own. Birds are known to build their nests in places such as attics, gutters, vents, chimneys, and more. So why are birds especially attracted to building their nests near our houses? How do we prevent them from building nests and entering our homes in a safe, humane way?
Birds prefer to build their nests in higher places as this helps them survey the area around them. A house gives them a perfect vantage point with spots that are high enough for them to feel safe from predators, look for food, hatch their eggs, and even protect them from extreme temperatures. In addition to the common places that birds are found (gutters and attics), they can also take shelter in less obvious places like gaps in siding and small light fixtures.
Surprisingly, nests and what birds leave behind in them can be dangerous to humans. Bird droppings contain acid that corrodes metal and concrete and can even damage your car paint. Nesting sites can also cause damage to your home. Nests can easily clog drains and gutters which lead to moisture issues inside your home. If a nest is built in a dryer or fan, it can restrict airflow, causing lint buildup and increasing the risk of a fire.
With all of this in mind, how do we prevent birds from entering and building their nests in our homes? Here are some easy, humane ways to keep birds out of your house:
- Use aluminum foil as repellent. Place pieces of foil in high points around your home or on tree limbs. The sun will reflect off the shiny surface and bother their eyes, deterring them from coming near unwanted places.
- Sprinkle baking soda. Birds do not like the feeling of baking soda on their toes. Try sprinkling baking soda on the edges of your windowsills or patios.
- Place predator decoys in your yard. A rubber snake or plastic owl can easily scare off birds and keep them from landing in your yard. Be sure to periodically move the decoys to different spots so birds don’t realize they aren’t real.
There are laws and regulations regarding bird nest removal and bird protection in each state. It’s usually best to call a professional wildlife exclusion company to handle bird nests and birds inside the house.
A nuisance pest (also referred to as nuisance wildlife) is any animal that interferes with other human activities or that is menacing or destructive; for example, animals that eat our birdseed, dig up gardens or landscaping, populate a place where they are unwanted (like your attic), damage buildings and public parks, or threaten human health and safety by spreading diseases, directly attacking us, or colliding with cars, planes, and trains. Some common nuisance animals include opossums, raccoons, moles and voles, bats, birds, deer, and skunks.
Studies have shown that deer vs car collisions cost Americans $1 billion per year. Birds vs airplanes also cost the same amount of damage annually. Squirrels, beavers, and other similar nuisance pests cause millions of dollars in damage to roadways, bridges, and dams each year. These creatures can also threaten already endangered species.
Wildlife in general search for 3 main things necessary for survival: food, water, and shelter. As human development spreads, interactions with wildlife will become more frequent. Competition for food, water and shelter will increase, making them more daring in their quest for survival. As they become accustomed to the proximity of humans, they will continue to adapt and increase their populations.
So what can you do to help prevent nuisance wildlife? The first step is to identify the pest you are dealing with. Federal and state laws protect most wildlife and regulate which species can be trapped, hunted, harvested, or harmed. In fact, all native birds are federally protected and some non-native species (including the house sparrow, European starling, and domestic pigeon which are all considered nuisance birds) have federal protection, as well. It is illegal to hunt, pursue, take, capture, kill or possess any migratory bird, nest, or egg.
Once you have identified the animal you are dealing with, the next step is to treat the problem, not the symptom. By removing the 3 things wildlife are searching for (food, water, and shelter), they will go elsewhere in their search. If a nuisance pest is eating your dog’s food, don’t just trap or relocate the offending animal. Store the dog food in a lidded container and take the bowls in overnight.
The University of Georgia Wildlife Extension recommends the following steps to prevent nuisance wildlife from taking over your yard.
One of the best ways to prevent wildlife is to make your yard or home undesirable to them. Once you identify the type of animal you are dealing with, do some research and learn their habits and preferences and modify your home or yard to make it more unattractive to them. Remove anything they can use for cover. Keep tall grass mowed short; remove piles of brush, logs, rocks, debris, firewood, trash, bricks, buckets, flower pots, old cars, used tires, and toys. Use an herbicide to get rid of weeds, briars, and vines. Cut away dead trees and limbs as these provide nesting and roosting spots for nuisance birds and bats.
Harassment is another prevention method you can use where you disturb or scare the wildlife away from your property. The effectiveness of harassment depends on the diligence of the homeowner. These methods must be utilized on a regular basis and moved frequently (every few days) otherwise the animals become accustomed to them and they are less effective. Tactile harassment methods include water spray and motion sensored sprinklers; light methods include bright lights, strobes, and lasers; and scare methods include eye balloons, scarecrows, silhouettes on windows, predatory figurines, and pyrotechnics.
Wildlife exclusion refers to utilizing physical barriers to keep wildlife out of your yard or home, usually through fencing or other materials. This is one of the best options for nuisance wildlife. All fencing should be staked or secured firmly to the ground. For large animals such as hogs, dogs, or deer, welded wire, chain link, or wood fencing is preferred. If you have a problem with deer, the fencing should be at least 8 feet tall. Smaller animals like opossums, raccoons, foxes, and squirrels do better with chicken wire, hardware cloth, or electric fence that is at least 2 feet tall and buried 6″ to 12″ into the ground.
Exclusion from your house is also possible. Cap chimneys to prevent raccoons, bats, birds, and squirrels. Keep soffit vents in good repair and screened to prevent insects, birds, and bats. Use hardware cloth or screens that still allow airflow to protect the gabled ends of homes or barns to keep out squirrels, bats, and birds. Keep windows and doors, including those to garages and sheds shut and make sure they have proper sealing and that screens and weather seals are in good repair to prevent snakes, bugs, mice, raccoons, and opossums. Cover dryer vents with a screen and clean them regularly to prevent snakes and mice. You can also seal around them with expanding foam or weather seal. Finally, prevent mice and bats from getting in around electric lines, phone lines, cables, and pipes by sealing them with expanding foam or weather seal.
Removal and Repellents
Removal and relocation of nuisance wildlife is discouraged as it can oftentimes be illegal. You can remove these pests from your home and release them onto your own property but steps must be taken to seal off entry points back into the home to keep them from coming back in. It is illegal to relocate nuisance pests onto someone else’s property. This option is usually deferred to a professional wildlife company who is familiar with trapping and relocation laws in your area.
Repellents can also be utilized to keep out offensive animals. Research shows that most soundwave repellents are not very effective at keeping animals at bay. The most effective repellents are those that use taste, fear, and odor. Different species respond to different repellents so identification of your problem critter is essential. The success of repellents depends on timing, how many of those types of animals are present, how hungry they are, and if they have been conditioned prior to coming onto your property. In general, the most effective methods combine repellents with physical barriers.
Lethal control of nuisance wildlife requires permits from federal and/or state wildlife agencies. While these permits can be given to non-professionals, it is not recommended due to the risk of bites, rabies, and other diseases that can be spread by these animals.
If you have a problem with nuisance wildlife, contact a local pest control company that specializes in wildlife control so they can help properly identify the animal you are dealing with and provide the most up-to-date, safe, and legal exclusion methods for your situation.
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