Sneaky Wildlife: Possums and Raccoons

Sneaky Wildlife: Possums and Raccoons

When you think of pest control the most common critters that come to mind are roaches, rats, bed bugs, mosquitoes, and other traditional pests. Wildlife may not be at the top of your list but these sneaky pests can wreak havoc on your home and your health. Two wildlife pests that often get into your home are possums and raccoons. While they are noticeably different in appearance, these two animals share many similarities. They are both highly adaptable to their surroundings and can be quite creative in seeking out food sources. They are both also known to carry diseases that can be harmful to humans. Do you know how to identify a possum or a raccoon? What can you do to prevent these pests from damaging your home and property?

POSSUMS

Possum
Possums are North America’s only marsupial species. They can range from 14″ long to over 3 feet long. Their tails make up 50% of their total body length. They can weight up to 13 lbs. Possums are scavengers and will forage in trashcans and dumpsters for food. They are omnivores but prefer insects and carrion over fruits and nuts. Possums are highly nocturnal and are rarely seen by humans. They prefer to live near water. Possums are found throughout eastern North America. Possums are slow movers but are highly skilled climbers. They can get into attics and under houses, especially in crawlspaces. They will play dead as a defensive tactic.

 RACCOONS

Raccoon
Raccoons can range from just under 2 feet long to just over 3 feet long. They can weigh up to 23 lbs. They have a distinctive black mask coloring on their faces. Raccoons are scavengers and will often forage in trashcans and dumpsters for food. They are quite dexterous and can use their paws to open doors and lids. They are omnivores but prefer fruits and nuts over meat. They are nocturnal and are rarely seen by humans. If you spot a raccoon during the day be aware – this is often (but not always) a sign of rabies or other abnormal condition in the raccoon. Raccoons are found throughout most of the United States, southern Canada, and northern South America. Raccoons are creatures of habit. Once they discover a food source at your house they will keep coming back over and over. They often access attics and roofs of homes causing significant damage.

PREVENTION

  • Seal any garbage cans and compost bins at night.
  • Use locking lids on trashcans if possible or place a weight on top to keep the lids closed.
  • Pick up any fruit or other food items from your yard.
  • Make sure to bring your pet’s food and water bowls indoors at night and empty bird feeders.
  • Keep the outside of your home well lit at night – possums and raccoons are nocturnal and shy away from lights.
  • Examine the outside of your home for possible entry points and seal them off. Make sure to check chimneys, attic vents, and seams along roofs and foundations.
  • Keep your yard clear of debris and keep the grass mowed.
  • Spray a mixture of half ammonia and half water on your trashcans or soak rags in the mixture and scatter them around your property. The smell will repel these pests.
  • Consider enclosing your crawlspace to eliminate their ability to get under your home.
  • If you think you have a wildlife issue, contact a licensed pest control expert who can provide you with a thorough evaluation and treatment plan.
Pollinators: Friendly Foes

Pollinators: Friendly Foes

Pollination is when pollen grains are transferred from one flower to another. Pollination allows plants to produce seeds which is how they reproduce. Pollinators are animals and insects that are responsible for helping with the pollination of over 80% of the world’s flowering plants. Animal pollinators are vital in the reproduction of flowering plants and the production of most fruits and vegetables. They accomplish this by getting their food from flowers (think nectar and pollen) and collecting pollen on their bodies in the process. They then move on to another plant and leave the hitchhiking pollen behind, providing the new plants with the pollen they need to reproduce.

Some of the most common animal pollinators that come to mind are bees and butterflies. But did you know there are several other animals you might not have known who are expert pollinators? Here are a few animal pollinators along with the types of plants they pollinate:

ANTS:

Ants love nectar. Because they don’t fly they have to crawl into flowers to get to this nectar. Once inside the flower, pollen sticks to their bodies, allowing them to transfer it to other flowers when they move on. Tropical plants have nectar outside their flowers to attract ants to them. They then use these ants as “protectors” from other insects.

Ants pollinate flowers that:

  • Are low growing
  • Are small and inconspicuous
  • Have flowers close to their stems

BATS:

Bats are known as one of the “night shift” pollinators. They are most common in tropical and desert climates. They are prevalent in the southwest US, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands as pollinators. In fact, mangoes, bananas, and guavas depend on bats for pollination. In the US and Central America, the agave plant (which is used to make tequila) and the Saguaro cactus are also dependent on bats for pollination.

Bats pollinate flowers that:

  • Open at night
  • Are large in size
  • Are pale or white in color
  • Are very fragrant
  • Have copious nectar

BEES:

Bees are known as the “champion” pollinators and are also the most common. There are over 4000 species of bees in the United States alone. Bees purposefully visit flowers to collect pollen and nectar which they use to feed themselves and their young. Many flowers that bees pollinate have an area of low UV reflection near their centers. Humans can’t see UV reflection so we don’t notice them. Bees, however, use them as a target to guide them to the center of the flower.
Human Perspective Bee Perspective

Human Perspective                   Bee Perspective

Photos courtesy of Apalachicola National Forest.

Bees pollinate flowers that:

  • Are full of nectar
  • Are brightly colored (usually blue or yellow) (bees can’t see red)
  • Have a sweet or minty flavor
  • Are open in daytime
  • Provide landing platforms
  • Have tubular flowers with nectar at the base

BEETLES:

Beetles were among the first insects to visit flowers. They are important pollinators for ancient species like magnolias. They are known as “mess and soil” pollinators because they eat through flower petals to get to the nectar and then defecate inside the flowers. Fossil records show that beetles were abundant as far back as 200 million years ago.

Beetles pollinate flowers that:

  • Are bowl shaped with their sexual organs exposed
  • Are white to green in color
  • Have a strong fruity fragrance
  • Are open during the day
  • Have a moderate amount of nectar
  • Have large, solitary flowers

BIRDS:

Birds are important pollinators of wildflowers. Hummingbirds are the most important bird pollinators in the United States. In the eastern United States there is only one species that acts as a pollinator and that is the ruby throated hummingbird. Hummingbirds have good eyesight and are extremely attracted to red flowers. They use their long bills to collect nectar and the pollen then dusts their heads and faces.

Hummingbirds pollinate flowers that:

  • Are tubular with recurved petals
  • Have tubes, funnels, and cups
  • Are brightly colored red, yellow, and orange
  • Are odorless
  • Are open during the day
  • Have prolific amounts of nectar
  • Have a modest amount of pollen

BUTTERFLIES:

Butterflies are very active during the day. Their body structure doesn’t allow them to pick up as much pollen as bees and other insects but they can see red where bees can’t. Butterflies produce scents that attract other butterflies of the opposite sex. This scent they produce smells like the flowers that they are attracted to.

Butterflies pollinate flowers that:

  • Have flowers with clusters and landing platforms
  • Are brightly colored (red, orange, yellow)
  • Are open during the day
  • Have ample nectar

TWO-WINGED INSECTS:

Two winged pollinators include flies, gnats, and mosquitoes. These insects aren’t as fuzzy as bees so they don’t pick up as much pollen. They are still, however, important pollinators, especially for some species of orchids.

Two-winged insects pollinate flowers that:

  • Are pale and dull to dark brown or purple in color
  • Are sometimes flecked with translucent patches
  • Have a putrid odor
  • Produce pollen
  • Have funnel-like pollen

MOTHS:

Moths are the other member of the pollination “night shift” along with bats. Some moths are also active as pollinators during the day. The yucca plant is one important plant that is dependent on moths for survival.

Moths pollinate flowers that:

  • Have clusters and landing platforms
  • Are white or dull in color
  • Are open in late afternoon or at night
  • Have ample nectar
  • Have nectar that is deeply hidden

WASPS:

Wasps look like bees but have much less hair. This makes them less efficient as pollinators because pollen is less likely to stick to their bodies. Wasps need pollen and nectar for energy. Fig wasps are responsible for pollinating almost 1000 species of figs.

Wasps pollinate flowers that:

  • Are full of nectar
  • Are brightly colored (usually blue or yellow) (bees can’t see red)
  • Have a sweet or minty flavor
  • Are open in daytime
  • Provide landing platforms
  • Have tubular flowers with nectar at the base

OTHER POLLINATORS:

There are several other uncommon pollinators. Lizards, geckos, and skinks can be pollinators. They climb inside flowers to drink the nectar and the pollen then sticks to their scales. Lemurs and possums can also pollinate. They use their snouts and tongues to get nectar from plants and then have their faces and snouts dusted with pollen.

 

We consider most of the animals and insects that are pollinators as nuisances and pests. As much as we don’t want them in our homes, they do play a very critical role in the survival of plants and food. It is important that while we should take steps to prevent them from invading our homes, we should be very careful with how we handle them should they make themselves at home in our area. If you suspect you have a problem with any of these pollinators, contact a professional pest control company who can give you a thorough evaluation and provide you with a treatment plan that both benefits you and protects these important species.

 

 

 

Common Winter Pests and How to Prevent Them

Common Winter Pests and How to Prevent Them

During the colder months of winter, most of us like to stay bundled up and warm – with warmer clothes and inside our cozy homes. Unfortunately, many animals also seek this same shelter and warmth in the winter – oftentimes in our homes! Do you know which animals can cause problems for you during these colder months? What can you do to prevent them from seeking shelter in your home? Check out these common winter wildlife pests and 6 ways you can prevent them.

SQUIRRELS

Squirrel
Squirrels can be a problem year round. They don’t hibernate in the winter and stay very active. They like to seek shelter and warmth in attic spaces. They may also seek out your attic as a storage space for their winter stash of nuts, grains, and seeds so they don’t have to search for food in the cold winter months. Squirrel nests are easy to spot in the winter in bare trees. Squirrels are notorious chewers – so if you have them in your attic you can expect your wood, insulation, and electrical wiring to suffer damage.

SKUNKS

Skunk
Skunks live in the same areas during the winter as they do in the summer. They like to burrow under our decks, patios, and stoops. Skunks don’t technically hibernate, but they do lower their body temperature and heart rate in the winter to conserve energy and therefore become less active. They can go up to a week without food and water but will venture out on a semi-regular basis in search of sustenance. They live in larger communities in the wintertime for warmth.

RATS/MICE

Rats and Mice
Rats and mice are also year round pests but they can become more of a problem in the winter. These rodents seek out warmth, food, shelter, and water inside our homes during the harsh winter months. They can squeeze into your home through extremely small openings. Like squirrels, they are also notorious for chewing through insulation, wiring, and wood.

BATS

Bats
There are at least 40 different species of bats in the United States. Bats are mostly active in the summer months and will hibernate in the winter. They will, however, hibernate in your attic! Bats like to roost in attics, belfries, behind shutters, and loose boards. They are carriers of rabies and can spread disease.

RACCOONS

Raccoon
Raccoons are nocturnal and rarely seen during the day. Raccoons can cause significant damage to roofs and chimneys in their search for den sites. They will also get into crawlspaces in search of den sites. They are a major carrier of rabies.

CHIPMUNKS

Chipmunk
Chipmunks are like squirrels in that they gather and store their food in the fall. They are less active in the colder weather, lowering their body temperatures and heart rates to conserve energy. They usually make their nests in underground burrows that can be up to 10 feet long. They will venture out every few days to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom. Oftentimes they will use attics as a storage space for their winter stash.

OPOSSUMS

Opossum
Opossums are the only marsupial found in North America. They will occasionally make their dens in attics and garages. They are known to make very messy nests. Opossums have very sharp teeth and will show them, as well as hiss, when they feel threatened. They are known to bite in very rare cases.

PREVENTION:

Winter wildlife can be a problem especially if they build a nest or store food in or near your home in the wintertime. The cold weather also doesn’t eliminate the diseases that they carry and spread. If these pests get into your home they can cause significant damage to your roof, insulation, foundation, wiring, and more. What can you do to prevent winter wildlife from making your home theirs? Check out these 6 tips to prevent winter wildlife.

  1. Eliminate Entry Points. Winter wildlife can’t get into your home if they don’t have a way in. Carefully inspect your home for any openings that animals can use to get in. Check and proof any weep vents in your bricks. Seal around HVAC and utility lines, in gaps in the foundation and siding, in gaps between your roof and soffits, and gaps between the soffits and fascia. Check your roof vents, as well. Seal gaps around windows and doors, including your garage door. Many rodents can chew through rubber or thin plastic seals so consider using heavy duty metal seals or caulk. Check screens on doors and windows to make sure they are in good repair. Use chimney caps. Consider enclosing your crawlspace to prevent unwanted critters, as well.
  2. Clean Your Gutters. Clogged gutters can block the drainage of rain and melting snow and ice. This can not only cause damage to your home, but also invites birds and other wildlife to build their nests here. Make sure drains are clean and that your spouts are far enough away from your foundation. Consider installing Leafproof XP Gutter Guards to make gutter cleaning and maintenance easier for you.
  3. Clear Out The Clutter. Now is the time to reorganize your belongings. This not only lets you get your garage or attic cleaned out, but also allows you to inspect areas of these spaces that you might not normally have access to. If possible, get rid of cardboard storage boxes and use plastic containers with lids instead. Get rid of old newspapers or other paper products as these invite rodents and other pests to make nests.
  4. Get Rid Of Their Food. Winter wildlife will eat anything they can get their hands on. If you have birdfeeders, take them down in the evenings and put them back out in the mornings. Clean up any spilled birdseed from the ground underneath them. If you do keep your birdfeeders out all the time, consider squirrel proofing them. Use trash and compost bins with locks and store them in the garage if possible. Make sure outdoor composts are well sealed. Store food in airtight containers and refrigerate them if possible. Don’t leave pet food out overnight, especially outdoors. Clean up any spilled food and crumbs daily and sweep and vacuum often.
  5. Clean Up Your Yard. Clutter and debris in  your yard can invite all sorts of pests to invade. Keep your yard clean and free of debris. Trim shrubs and branches away from your home as pests can use these to access your house. Stack firewood at least 2 feet off the ground to keep animals from nesting underneath. Dead trees, brush piles, and tall grasses should be put in yard waste bags and kept in the garage until garbage day.
  6. Call The Pros. If you suspect you have a wildlife problem, call a professional wildlife control company. They can come out and inspect your home, remove any unwanted critters, and provide you with a prevention and treatment plan to keep them from coming back.
Unusual Winter Wildlife

Unusual Winter Wildlife

As the cold winter months descend upon us, our first instinct is to head indoors for warmth and shelter. Animals have this same instinct during winter and will start looking to escape from the elements. They will usually look for holes, tunnels, logs, rock or leaf piles to burrow in but, if they are near neighborhoods, your home might look just as inviting to them.

Did you rake and bag your leaves this fall? Did you repair those holes in your deck, garage, or siding? Did you enclose your crawlspace and cap your chimney? If the answer is no, then you may have left an open invitation for critters to come into your home. Common winter wildlife invaders include squirrels, rats and mice, raccoons, and spiders. But don’t forget some lesser known winter animals, as well. Check out these four unusual winter pests and what you can do to prevent them.

OPOSSUMS:

Opossum

APPEARANCE:

  • About 2 feet long
  • About 10 lbs.
  • Long, light grey hair
  • Hairless round ears
  • Scaly tail
  • Five fingers on their front feet, four fingers and opposable thumbs on their rear feet

HABITAT:

  • Establishes home within existing structures (hollow logs, garages, crawlspaces, under buildings, inside burrows)
  • Lives close to their food sources

DIET:

  • Omnivore
  • Will eat anything it can find
  • Usually eats fruit, grass, insects, mammals, birds, and fish

BEHAVIOR:

  • Marsupial (carries young in a pouch)
  • Sluggish and slow
  • Nocturnal
  • Excellent climbers
  • Produces a repulsive smell
  • Plays dead as a defensive mechanism

THREAT:

  • Not dangerous to humans as long as they aren’t cornered
  • May carry diseases of concern to humans (e.g. rabies) but transmission is extremely rare
  • Always handle (dead or alive) with gloves and wash hands thoroughly afterwards

SIGNS:

  • You see them out, especially at night
  • Usually see or hear around garbage cans or in attics
  • Damage to lawns and gardens from digging for food
  • Eaten pet food or birdseed

PREVENTION:

  • Opossums are protected species in many areas so check local laws and regulations before trapping or relocating
  • Eliminate food sources by keeping pet food inside and removing uneaten birdseed at night
  • Keep garbage cans closed and secure with bungee cords, cinder blocks, or latches
  • Put garbage cans out for pickup in the morning rather than overnight
  • Keep pets inside at night
  • Keep outdoor grills and grease catch cans clean
  • Secure under decks, eaves, and chimneys with wire mesh and use chimney caps
  • Trim tree limbs to prevent roof access
  • Enclose your crawlspace

FOXES:

Fox

APPEARANCE:

  • 3 to 3-1/2 feet in length
  • Reddish brown to grey fur
  • Tails have black or white tips
  • Yellowish eyes

HABITAT:

  • Will make dens under porches, decks or sheds
  • Found in suburban areas and near farms
  • Often seen near wooded areas, open fields and meadows
  • Will dig their own dens or use abandoned burrows and hollow trees

DIET:

  • Prey on small pets and livestock (rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens)
  • Prefer rodents, rabbits, insects, and fruit

BEHAVIOR:

  • Natural fear of humans
  • Like to dig

THREAT:

  • Not dangerous unless rabid (which is very rare)
  • Dangerous if captured or handled (they will bite or attack)

SIGNS:

  • See them (daytime or night)
  • Small animals/pets are carried off
  • Twisted droppings with hair or berries
  • Distinct odor left behind (almost like a skunk)

PREVENTION:

  • Keep pets indoors or in sturdy structures
  • If they have established a den under or near your home:
    • Loosely pack leaves, soil or mulch in the opening
    • Place urine soaked kitty litter, a sweat soaked shirt, smelly socks, or old sneakers in or near the opening
    • Spread capsicum-based repellent around the entry
  • Bury an L-shaped footer around the perimeter of fencing or enclosures to prevent them from digging into them
  • Scare foxes them away by making noise near their dens, shouting, or increasing activity near the den
  • Get rid of food sources like garbage, compost piles, and outdoor pet food

COYOTES:

Coyote

APPEARANCE:

  • 4 to 5 feet in length
  • 15 to 45 lbs
  • Tawny grey fur with dark areas and a black strip along their back
  • Backs of their ears are yellowish
  • Throat and belly are white
  • Tails have a black tip

HABITAT:

  • Prefer forests, grasslands, deserts, and swampy areas (they are very adaptable)
  • Accustomed to humans so they can be found in rural, urban, and suburban areas

DIET:

  • Mainly prefer small animals (rabbits, squirrels, mice)
  • Will also occasionally eat birds and insects

BEHAVIOR:

  • Nocturnal – they usually hunt after dark and in the early morning
  • Will kill house cats, small dogs, and livestock
  • They run with their tails down (this distinguishes them from dogs and wolves)

THREAT:

  • Can carry distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, rabies, mange, and tularemia
  • They have occasionally attacked humans if threatened

SIGNS:

  • Spotting them, especially at night
  • Hearing them (yip, yelp, howl, growl, and bark)
  • Dead or missing animals
  • Damage to gardens
  • Tracks – more elongated than dogs and more uniform in shape
  • Twisted droppings with hair and berries
  • Signs of prey (carcasses or bones that have been eaten clean)

PREVENTION:

  • Remove food sources like garbage cans and dumpsters or secure them with latches or straps
  • Feed pets and birds during the day and clean up stray food
  • Remove bird feeders at night as they will eat both the seeds and the animals who come to feed
  • Keep an eye on pets and young children as coyotes will attack if they are left alone

ARMADILLOS:

Armadillo

APPEARANCE:

  • Anywhere from 6 inches to 5 feet in length
  • 8 to 17 lbs
  • Color ranges from black to red, grey, or yellowish patterns and coloring
  • Tough shell with knobby scales

HABITAT:

  • Live in wooded areas and prefer loose, sandy, or clay soil since it is easier to dig
  • Will dig multiple burrows, some up to 15 feet deep
  • Can burrow under patios and driveways
  • Burrow entrances are usually hidden under brush, stumps, and rock piles

DIET:

  • Insects, insect larvae, earthworms, snails, and scorpions

BEHAVIOR:

  • Nocturnal – feed at night and hide in burrows during the day
  • Excellent diggers
  • Poor eyesight and hearing
  • Move swiftly
  • Good swimmers

THREAT:

  • Not usually dangerous to humans
  • Can carry the bacterium that causes leprosy but can only be transmitted by eating undercooked meat

SIGNS:

  • Seeing them, especially at night
  • Structural damage from burrowing under driveways and patios
  • Damage to flowerbeds, gardens, and landscaping

PREVENTION:

  • Eliminate food sources by decreasing the amount of water and fertilizer used on your lawn; this rich, moist soil brings worms and other insect larvae to the surface which attracts armadillos
  • Install fences around gardens at least 2 feet high and 18 inches into the ground
  • Remove brush, woodpiles, low lying bushes and shrubs as these are used to cover burrows
  • Clean up any fallen berries or fruit
  • Use a castor-oil based repellent around your yard

Helpful Tips to Keep Wildlife our of Your Home

Tips to Keep Wildlife out of Your Home

In our last blog we discussed the potential health threats and property damage that animals can cause when they enter your home.  We’re not talking about dogs and cats here, we’re talking about the animals that belong in the wild: bats, raccoons, squirrels , mice, opossums, and other wildlife.  With the cold temperatures we are starting to experience, it’s a prime time for wild animals to seek warmth and shelter in homes.

Here are some helpful tips on how to keep wildlife out of your home:

  • Take out the trash regularly and ensure that the container is tightly sealed.
  • Cut back tree limbs from your house.  Animals can use these to gain entry to your home.
  • Properly seal any vents or openings around the home that animals could use as entry points.
  • Remove standing water from your yard.  This includes bird baths, pooled water areas, and pet water bowls.
  • Never leave pet food and water bowls outside.  These can attract wildlife.
  • Remove debris from your lawn.
  • Install chimney caps so wildlife can’t enter your chimney.

If you hear wildlife in your home, it is best to call a professional animal removal company.  Some animals can get aggressive when they feel they are being threatened.  Northwest’s wildlife control specialist can help to remove the animal, seal off entry points, and help you to ensure that other wildlife do not return.

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