By Tom Skevin
RISMEDIA, September 13, 2008-(MCT)-With the weather turning cooler in the coming weeks, it’s time to make sure the welcome mat is not left out for wildlife seeking warmer quarters and food.
Keeping critters out of the house for winter is part of peacefully coexisting with animals in North Jersey, which includes preventing bears from rummaging through the garbage pails and deer from munching on the landscape.
“We are very fortunate in New Jersey to have as much wildlife as we have,” says Nina Austenberg, Mid-Atlantic regional director of the Humane Society of the United States. “If people are able to appreciate it at a distance and with a camera, we should be able to coexist without any problems.”
Prevention is the Key
As soon as it starts getting cooler, small animals start heading indoors, warns Stuart Aust of Bug Doctor, Termite and Pest Control in Paramus, N.J. “It pretty much starts with shrubs and tree branches touching the roof or side of the home,” he says.
It doesn’t take much of an opening along a soffit or eave, or through where wires and pipes enter the home: Mice can get through one the size of a dime, and rats and chipmunks, about the size of a quarter.
“It’s amazing to people who are not in animal-protection work how small a hole is needed for an animal to get in,” says Austenberg.
Another common entry point is the chimney.
A cap is “real important,” says Keith Donaldson of Lucky Duck Chimney Sweep in River Edge and West Milford. “Squirrels tend to go for the chimneys for the warmth. Birds tend to sit on top looking for the warmth. (Then) they fall in.”
Donaldson says that depending on the size of the chimney, a cap can cost $75 to $225 installed, and he recommends a stainless-steel one.
Just make sure the chimney is empty before it’s capped.
“Check from downstairs with a light or mirror before you do” the capping, says Donaldson, who has been removing animals from chimneys for more than 20 years. “God forbid you cap an animal in there.”
Removing animals from a chimney can cost $200 and up, he says, depending on what’s in there and how many.
“Hopefully it doesn’t have to come to that,” he says. “Hopefully they will have the chimneys checked once a year.”
Garages also can provide access, so install weather-stripping on door bottoms and make sure the bottom is flush with the base when the door’s closed. If not, build up the base with concrete or blacktop, and/or add another layer of weather-stripping.
The opening around the drainpipe under the kitchen sink should be sealed.
Store food packages on upper shelves or cabinets and seal opened food products in containers or storage bags. Move the stove and refrigerator, then sweep up food particles and wash the floor. Seal the opening where the range cord comes through the wall with liquid foam.
Standing water indoors should be mopped up, and clutter such as storage boxes and newspaper piles removed. Keep outside woodpiles off the ground and away from the home.
If Animals Get In
“We recommend that people who are having a problem with any kind of wildlife contact their local animal-control officer or contact the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife,” says Darlene Yuhas, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
When encountering a black bear, Yuhas says, use common sense, make noise and move away without running.
“The first bit of advice we provide to homeowners is to remain calm,” she says. “They are extremely shy creatures and in most cases, they have no interest in making contact with people.”
Should an animal get into the house, seek a contractor who is on call 24 hours in the event of an emergency (wildlife in a trap can make a lot of noise), and ask if they are members of the Better Business Bureau and the state and national pest-management associations, Austenberg recommends. Also, ask for a certificate of insurance, contractor’s license and pest-control license from the state DEP.
Getting an animal removed from the home-usually the attic-can cost $250 to $350, says Charles Kaczyk of Animal and Wildlife Control in Little Ferry, N.J. That includes installing a one-way “door” out of the home and installing a temporary patch afterward, “Unless it’s a McMansion, which requires more work and more time, and is priced higher.”
Anyone with children and/or pets should inform the contractor, and exterminators should leave bait where it will come into contact only with the intended target.
Bait traps should be tamper-resistant.
The Humane Society says that if wildlife offspring are in the home, do not remove the mother without her young.
Live near water and have those pesky Canada geese hanging around? There may not be much you can do.
“You don’t have a lot of options,” says Joe Kohl, sales manager for Geese Police in Howell Township in Monmouth County. “You can harass them, but you can’t touch them or kill them. Fencing might help, it might not.”
Border collies can be effective, he says, but need to be kept active and thus may not make for a good pet. And the geese get used to cutouts of dogs and coyotes.
Kohl would not offer a price range for residential service, saying there are too many variables.
No Wildlife Buffet
Along with not putting out the welcome mat, do not put out a buffet.
For gardens, “put in chicken wire around it and put in a trap,” says Kaczyk. “Groundhogs love gardens, specifically vegetable gardens. It’s their supermarket.”
Marigolds and chrysanthemums are natural deterrents.
If you put down something they don’t like, Kaczyk advises, “they will avoid it and look for something more appetizing.”
Beware that good intentions can lead to a bad result.
“It’s difficult,” the Humane Society’s Austenberg says, “when someone puts out food for stray cats or peanuts for chipmunks to say, ‘This is not for you, black bear.'”
© 2008, North Jersey Media Group Inc.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.