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At long last, she had a contract to sell her townhouse. Paperwork was flowing and the inspection was under way. Then, disaster.
Something was wrong in the attic, very wrong. Something was alive up there, and the odor was foul. The inspector was afraid to look.So Carolyn Kohls called a pest-exclusion service to rush to her place near Grapevine Lake in Colleyville.
As so often happens near water, four-footed creatures had taken up residence. The pest-control technicians found four big male raccoons living in Kohls' attic.
"A lot of the insulation close to the attic floor was pretty wet," Kohls says. "The raccoons had four separate areas for bathrooms."
Critter Control determined that the intruders had entered through a gap near the attic fan.
"We've had this house 25 years, and there were raccoons and opossums in the neighborhood since day one," Kohls says.
"You can't get rid of them. There's a slough just a row of houses away from here. You tolerate them and live in balance with nature," she says. "You just have to keep them out of your house."
She wound up spending $6,000 for repairs that included insulation removal and replacement, insecticidal treatment, a new solar attic fan with critter-proof tops, and repair of siding where more animals, including squirrels, could sneak in.
This doesn't have to happen to you.
As the temperature drops, wild creatures are house-hunting for places to hole up. Attics are prime territory. In summer the temperature up there can reach 200 degrees, but as autumn approaches, it gets tolerable for wildlife.
Other favorite spaces are down below under pier-and-beam foundations and decks, sheds and garages.
If you don't want to share your space with a critter, take some advice from the experts. We consulted experienced pest-control professionals and a Texas Parks and Wildlife urban biologist. Here are their top tips for making your place uninviting to wildlife:
Trim those trees. Squirrels, raccoons and others use branches as springboards to get on your roof. Keep branches at least four feet away from your roof, advises Mark Shetterly, operator of Critter Control DFW. Six feet is better, says Bonnie Bradshaw, owner of 911 Wildlife.
Fall is the right season to trim because birds aren't raising young, Bradshaw says, and it's too soon for animals to be ensconced in a hollow.
If the critter can get on your roof, he's looking for loose shingles, warped siding or rotten wood as a way to enter your attic. That gets us to tip No. 2:
Inspect your roof or hire someone to do it. Look for places where roofing material overlaps. This forms nooks, trapping moisture and leading to decay that provides easy access. Don't forget to check for gaps around attic vents, says Eco-Safe service manager Rick Vessels.
Animals can get through holes much smaller than most people think, all the experts agree. A dime-size hole will admit a mouse; nickel-size, a rat.
Check around your foundation for gaps. Weep holes are necessary for ventilation, but often they're large enough to admit an animal. Construction companies build homes to be "weatherproof but not critter-proof," Shetterly says. He recommends using products such as Cobra, a tough, spongy sealant that will "breathe" but keep the critters out.
Don't provide a buffet.Bird feeders and pet food bowls are open invitations. Make sure the bird feeder is empty at day's end, and bring in the dog food or cat food. Even if your pet's food is indoors, keep it away from the pet door. Animals have a keen sense of smell and will come inside to help themselves.
Cap the chimney. Use heavy-gauge welded-wire mesh, Bradshaw says: "The only thing chicken wire is good for is keeping chickens in."
Credits: By Betsy Friauf - Dallas Morning News (DentonRC.com)