October 20, 2013

Prevent nuisance animals from entering home

Fall is the time to take action, since theat’s when animals look to escape the chill.

By Mary Beth Breckenridge
McClatchy Newspapers

AKRON, Ohio – Brian Briggs can’t resist looking for trouble.

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Additional Photos Below

HOW TO KEEP WILDLIFE OUT

TIPS FOR KEEPING critters out of your home:

Clean your gutters. Clogged gutters can cause water to pool and create ice dams, rotting fascia boards and roof sheathing and making it easy for squirrels to gnaw through the softened wood.

Repair moisture problems, such as leaking pipes and clogged drains.

Seal holes, cracks and other small openings on the outside of the house and basement. Include the places where pipes and wires enter the house and spaces between the siding and the chimney.

Replace loose mortar and weatherstripping.

Install door sweeps, including under the garage door.

Cap your chimney.

Don’t feed wild animals. It attracts them to your home.

Bring pet food dishes indoors at night.

Use garbage cans with tight-fitting lids, and avoid keeping them outside as much as possible.

Trim tree branches to keep them away from the house. Squirrels can jump up to 8 feet laterally and as far as 10 feet from a high spot to a place below.

Cover vents with grills or rust-resistant screening, if appropriate. Ohio law prohibits screening clothes dryer vents.

Keep areas beneath wooden steps clean.

Keep window screens in good repair.

Store firewood at least 20 feet away from the house.

Keep shrubbery well-trimmed.

Sources: Brian Briggs of Frontline Animal Removal, National Pest Management Association and Woodstream Corp., which makes Victor rodent control products

Driving down a residential street, he’ll slow to peer at rotted siding or point to some suspicious dark streaks under an attic vent. Even from a distance, he can tell that some form of wildlife has made its way into those houses.

Briggs is a nuisance animal remover, the guy homeowners and landlords call when wild animals make their way into walls, attics, basements and other places where they’re not welcome.

He and his two partners in Frontline Animal Removal specialize in trapping and removing animals from buildings and making sure others don’t come in. Fall is a busy time of year for the crew, as varmints move in on humans in an effort to escape autumn’s chill.

Usually Briggs handles the paperwork and administrative chores for the Lake Township, Ohio-based business, but this day he’s making the rounds to check traps the crew has set and assess new customers’ situations. All the while, he’s fielding calls from homeowners with squirrels in their attics or groundhogs under their sheds.

It takes him just seconds to recognize the problem at a house in West Akron, Ohio, where the owner has heard noises above the ceiling.

“Brick. Squirrels can shimmy right up,” Briggs says. He looks up to see a narrow opening along a soffit where a section of mesh vent had rotted away. Bingo.

The problem, Briggs explains, is that animals are relentless when they’re seeking a place to stay warm in fall or to give birth in spring. They’ll chew through wood. They’ll push aluminum soffits out of the way. They’ll squeeze through small openings – in some cases, just a fraction of an inch wide.

Sometimes sloppy construction is to blame, sometimes poor maintenance. Other times it’s just a matter of a wily animal exploiting an opportunity.

In urban areas particularly, many animals are born in attics. So that’s where they go to breed, Briggs says.

TROUBLE SPOTS

Briggs scales a ladder onto the lower roof of a split-level house in Lake Township and immediately starts noticing potential trouble spots.

He points to a gap where the siding doesn’t quite meet the edge of the chimney. “That’s prime space for bats,” he says.

A little give in the aluminum soffit could be a problem, too. Unless it’s reinforced with plywood, a raccoon can easily push it up to get access to the house.

And then there’s the tree overhanging the roof, the perfect jumping-off point for a squirrel.

Vents without louvers or screens are often problems, he said. So are the places where pipes and wires enter a house. The complex roof angles from multiple dormers and gables that are common in home construction today can also spell trouble, because they can cause water to pool and promote moisture damage.

The problems aren’t uncommon, and they’re not limited to older houses, he says. But without a practiced eye like Briggs’, most homeowners probably wouldn’t even see them.

“Most people don’t notice it until they hear the noise in the attic,” he says.

TRAPPING ANIMALS

Briggs is striding across a backyard in Lake Township toward a shed plagued by groundhogs when he hears a distinctive clang.

Success. The spring-loaded door has slammed on one of the two box traps his company set the day before.

Sure enough, he finds a toothy culprit trapped in one metal cage. Then he rounds a corner of the shed to find a surprise: a second groundhog in the other trap.

Double success.

The animals appear unharmed, but one chatters its teeth in what Briggs explains is a defense mechanism. He has no way to move them, so he leaves the animals in the traps until he can return in a couple of hours with a transport cage.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Two groundhogs are caged waiting to be transported from a home where they were captured in Uniontown, Ohio.

Mary Beth Breckenridge/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT

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Animal removal expert Brian Briggs inspects a home in Akron, Ohio, that shows damage from squirrels. Briggs’ company, Frontline Animal Removal, rids home of nuisance animals.

Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal/MCT

  


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