Animals in the Attic

Noises in the attic don’t always mean your home is haunted. It’s more likely you have an uninvited animal taking up residence, probably one planning on raising a family. Identification and proper treatment are vital to ensure this doesn’t become an annual occurrence.

By James T. Curran

There are several types of creatures who will find your attic an attractive place to raise a family, or just escape from the elements. Frequently, you’ll first notice something is up there when you start hearing movement or vocalizations, depending on the animal. It’s sometimes possible to identify the problem just by these noises.

Morning and evening noises that are fast and sound like scampering are almost guaranteed to be squirrels. Most likely it’s a pregnant or recent mother looking for a place to raise her young. Unfortunately, squirrels chew everything, including wires, insulation, wood, and anything you might store there. This is obviously a very serious fire hazard and should be dealt with immediately. It is vital that the squirrels are removed and relocated (and obviously, your house should be squirrel-proofed), otherwise they will return immediately, like college grads after a week in the real world.

Rats and mice are probably the most common form of infestation. They will sound light and fast, and are active year round – and very determined and adept at getting into any space they want. Once you know you have a rat or mice problem, the only way to effectively solve the problem is to seal every possible entrance and exit to the house shut, and then remove the animals. Poison and ultrasonic deterrents are ineffective (and many have been ruled fraudulent by the FTC). Like squirrels, rats and mice will chew wires, which can lead to a fire hazard.

Snakes are frequently identified by the sliding, slithering noises they will make – different from scampering footsteps for example. Snakes will use the same means of entrance and exit as rats and mice, so solving a rodent problem will generally solve a snake problem. Baby snakes are curious and uninhibited, so identifying and solving this particular problem quickly is a good idea, before the young disperse and start exploring.

Loud, heavy walking noises that you hear at night are most likely going to be raccoons, or your grandmother going to the kitchen for whisky. Raccoons – especially the young – are very vocal, and will growl and chatter. Usually, it’s a pregnant raccoon mother who will seek out shelter in an attic. Raccoons can weigh up to 40lbs, and are particularly attracted to outside trash, dumpsters, pet food, and other human refuse. While not a guarantee against infestation, keeping the outside of your house free of these items reduces the risk of raccoons trying to break in. Raccoons are expert climbers, and will do serious damage in order to get into a space they want – including tearing off shingles and vents. Like rats and mice, the most effective solution is relocation. Killing or removing just the mother might leave young raccoons stranded in the attic, unable to fend for themselves. Baby raccoon corpses will rot, and attract other animals to your attic, so a thorough search of the entire space during the relocation is vital.

Photo courtesy Flickr/Bemep

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