Winter Home Repairs Keep the Cold, and Unwanted Wildlife, Out

Last Updated on February 25, 2022 9:54 am

Officials with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission say this is an excellent time of year to examine the outside of your home for openings, loose siding, gaps and other crevices that active wild animals may enter as the weather warms.

“The past few weeks have been all about keeping the cold out. Winter weather gives us a good incentive to hunker down, plug up any drafts and turn up the heat,” said Falyn Owens, extension biologist with the Wildlife Commission. “But those drafts will have another potential consequence when spring arrives – they can welcome wild critters looking for shelter to come inside.”

If not properly sealed, openings for air vents, pipes and wires can become thoroughfares into your home for small rodents and the animals that prey on them, like snakes. Snakes prefer to not live inside occupied buildings, but if they are looking for a meal, they will follow scent trails left by mice and rats. Once inside, snakes may be unable to make their way back out. Rat snakes, in particular, are common around homes and are excellent climbers. Be sure to inspect the outside of your home for small gaps above ground level (e.g. eaves, chimney, vents). Seal any holes or gaps you find, and for holes that need to be left open (e.g., vents), install vent covers and screens designed to allow air flow but keep wild animals out.

Blocking off access points that lead under your home is also important. Pregnant foxes and skunks are attracted to the readymade shelter that crawlspaces provide. One of the most common complaints received by the staff at the NC Wildlife Helpline each spring is about foxes denning under porches, sheds and barns.

“By the time we get the call, usually someone is seeing a fox with its pups running around in the yard and they want the animals relocated,” Owens said. “Laws designed to prevent the spread of diseases such as rabies make relocating foxes and skunks illegal. We usually recommend alternatives like waiting a few weeks for the animals to leave on their own, or approved tactics that convince the animals to speed up that process. However, it would be great if these conflicts could be prevented in the first place.”

For climbing species, attics can be convenient shelter for raising young. Raccoons and squirrels will jump from overhanging tree limbs onto roofs, and if they find damaged shingles or siding, they may try to get inside. Winter is an excellent time to trim limbs and branches to no closer than six feet of any buildings. This will keep most climbing species in the trees and can also reduce potential building damage from falling or scratching branches.

Owens adds, “Wild animals looking for a safe place to get out of the rain, heat, or cold can make a mess if they get inside. A thorough inspection of your home’s exterior and making any necessary repairs before springtime goes a long way to help wildlife find more natural places to raise their young.”

If you have questions about wildlife conflicts or experience a wildlife problem, the Commission’s NC Wildlife Helpline webpage is a valuable resource.

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