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MERRIMACK – During this job shadow, I was happy to find out Critter Control in Merrimack humanely “evicts” animals that find their way into people’s homes and garages.
I was also pleased to discover that we wouldn’t deal with insects. Nightmarish visions of bedbugs crawling into my hair, or a cockroach hopping along for a ride and infecting my home plagued me. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
Jesse Fraser, who has operated Critter Control for four years and worked for the franchise for the previous eight, said his business deals with animals that are mouse size and larger. Animal sizes go all the way up to raccoons and opossums, but he stops at relocating and capturing larger animals, such as deer, lynx, moose or bears. That is left to the other professionals at the state’s Fish and Game Department.
Critter Control covers the entire state and southern Maine.
In recent months, Fraser said he has witnessed an increase of requests for service by 37-40 percent. He said a number of factors play into making his busy schedule more hectic, which most recently includes the strange fall we’ve had.
“We’re seeing more squirrels and mice as of last spring. Last winter, as you know, wasn’t really winter. … With there being no snow, squirrels and mice find food easier … so the population going into the springtime was a little bit larger,” Fraser said. “Couple that with rains that we had this spring equaling a larger seed crop. This fall we have a lot of acorns, good food for squirrel and mice. … Where there’s food there’s population.”
After Hurricane Sandy blew through the Granite State, calls slowed for Critter Control. It gave Fraser a chance to catch up on work he needed to do that was delayed because of rain.
A photographer and I met Fraser in Merrimack and I hopped into his big yellow truck, sporting the license plate BATS. All of the vehicles belonging to Critter Control have fun plates, including SKUNK and SKWRL.
We headed over to Tallant Road to check out a house that had an issue with flying squirrels.
“Flying squirrels don’t actually fly, they glide,” Fraser said.
As we drove to the house, Fraser explained the flying squirrels were inside the portion of the home where the homeowner’s niece lived. Once we arrived, we saw that the home, belonging to a contractor, was in various stages of finished and the niece lived in an unfinished apartment above the garage.
He explained the animal eviction process.
“What essentially it is, is you seal up the house with a special valve, they go through the valve, they go out and forage for food and come back and they basically can’t get back through the house,” Fraser said. “You basically evict the animals. You don’t have to trap them, you don’t have to kill them. … Usually with mice and rats, we use a lethal trap, no real way to humanely take care of those guys. If you’re going to kill something, at least make it be quick and efficient.”
Fraser went inside the home to consult with the owner and his sister. After he came out, it was time to look for flying squirrels, along with mice and rats, which are usual suspects in house pest problems. He began an inspection along the perimeter of the house, surveying the siding and basement line at ground level. As he scanned his hand along the base of the vinyl siding, checking for holes, Fraser shared some interesting information.
Flying squirrels are roughly the size of a chipmunk and only need a hole the equivalent of an almond to squeeze in. A mouse only needs a hole the size of a human pinky finger nail to gain access.
Normally, deciphering the difference between the two animals comes down to the sound they make when inside your home. Fraser said that if you hear scratching, that generally is a mouse. If the resident hears running, then that is usually indicative of a squirrel.
He also has had people mistake hot water heaters as animals. If you hear what you believe is an animal running across your wall, it is usually forced hot water pipes because studs prevent the critters from traveling across the wall, he said.
As Fraser continued looking underneath the siding with his flashlight and sticking his hand in any hole he found, we came across a swarm of bugs. Originally, he thought they were ants, but realized it was a case of mistaken identity; they were termites. The swarm was underneath where a deck should be, below double French doors on the back side of the house.
He said he would refer his clients to Orkin for that problem.
After the ground-level inspection, Fraser allowed me to climb the short ladder and onto the roof of the house with him. He checked for holes, gaps and any other small spaces that a critter might be able to crawl into. He showed me places where the siding wasn’t flush with the rest of the house and wasn’t closed or cut off like it should be, which oftentimes serve as an entryway for animals.
Next, it was time to check the garage, which was much higher up than the house. He brought his ladder over to the back corner of the home where it connects with the garage and loft. This is where he found the point of entry.
He said squirrels would jump from the overhanging tree onto the roof of the home and crawl underneath the soffit and into the house.
While he stood on the tall ladder propped against the side of the home, Fraser snapped photos with his camera to show his client. Also in this opening, he found an array of bugs within a six-inch space. There were clusters of yellow jackets, wasps, lady bugs and stink bugs. He said they aren’t structural pests, unless you get an entire colony of bees or another insect making hives inside a wall.
While investigating the garage, Fraser found evidence of bats. And there were mouse droppings inside the home that he photographed with his phone.
Normal procedure would include an estimate of how much it would cost to evict the animals and to close up all of the holes.
Fraser finds lots of places to relocate the animals. He tries to keep the critters he catches in the same general area when he releases them. Fraser also works closely with Maria Colby at Wings of the Dawn in Henniker.
It was interesting work, but I must admit, I was disappointed I wasn’t able to see an adorable flying squirrel.
Credits: By Erin Place - NashuaTelegraph.com