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Things That Go Bump In The Night! Forget About Elm Street – Check Your Attic!
The phone just never stops ringing here at North Fulton Exterminating when it comes to frantic people having problems with animals in their attic. It’s amazing….especially in the winter when it’s cold. Occasionally, it turns out to be a raccoon or ‘pushum’, but in the vast majority of cases, its rodents…..rats, mice and squirrels!
Rodents love attics. Yes. It was definitely made for rodents. This is mainly because the attic provides “shelter from the storm”, if you know what I mean. The attic is dry, warm, quiet……no predators and no people. Perfect for snuggling up for a cold winter nap and having lots of little babies in a safe environment. Insulation also makes great nesting material!
The two most common rodents found in attics are roof rats and gray squirrels, but flying squirrels are also often found here. And, sometimes, you find all three living in the same attic. Oh….I forgot to mention the mice. That makes four!
People do not like the activity of creatures heard in the attic at night. The sounds of scratching, scraping, crashing and banging and popping above your head when you’re trying to sleep can be distracting. You wonder if the little mushrooms will end up in your bed at some point. (We’ll get to that later!)
When we inspect an attic for rodents and find evidence of an infestation, the first thing we do is try to identify the specific species. It makes a big difference in the treatment method. You have to figure out how they got in, but getting rid of what’s there is the first thing we need to worry about. Once the infestation is eliminated, we can worry about sealing all the holes and cracks so that others can’t get in later.
The most common way they get in is through the gap between the eaves and the eaves, although they aren’t above chewing a hole right through the siding. This gap is, presumably, to allow ventilation in the attic. Covering it with galvanized screen or flashing is a really big job and usually costs a lot of money. Very few people know how to do it right because they don’t understand the absolutely maniacal tenacity of squirrels and mice once they’ve decided to do something…..like get back into your warm and cozy attic! (especially if their babies are there)
As I mentioned earlier, treatment methods vary depending on the species you are dealing with. We can eliminate mice with lethal traps and poison baits, but baits don’t work on squirrels because, for one thing, squirrels just don’t care for bait, and two, it’s illegal to poison squirrels because they’re classified as game animals in Georgia. Mice are considered vermin. Like I said, squirrels won’t eat the bait in most cases, simply because they don’t like it. Dogs will eat many things that a cat would never touch, and vice versa. So it goes with squirrels and mice.
The quickest and surest way to get rid of mice is to bait them, and the best way to get rid of squirrels is to trap and release them elsewhere (at least 15 miles away or they will be right back). Attracting rats with poison gets rid of them quickly in most cases, but sometimes it leads to a bad odor problem. This can be very distracting, but it is temporary and in most cases is much preferable to living with live rats in the house.
Mice and squirrels, although both rodents, are very different creatures when it comes to treating your beautiful home. Squirrels live in the forest and trees and only come inside to sleep and give birth to their babies. They spend almost all hours of the day outdoors foraging…mostly nuts and seeds…in trees and on the ground. During the summer, they may avoid your attic all together, preferring to build nests high in tree branches or inside tree hollows. If a squirrel ever finds itself inside the living room of your home, it will soon panic and start destroying the entire room in an attempt to get out. She will chew window frames into a thousand bits and pieces and knock over anything that isn’t nailed down as she climbs and jumps up and down the other, ripping curtains and shredding curtains in a desperate attempt to be free. I’ve seen the inside of houses after a panicked gray squirrel was trapped inside for a day or two while the owners were gone and all I can say is…..I’m glad it wasn’t my house! The destruction is unbelievable. Fortunately, this does not happen very often, because squirrels simply do not like to explore the whole house. They are usually quite content to stay the night in the loft and go into the woods in the morning.
Mice, on the other hand, are a whole different story. Roof rats are classified as commensal rodents. Kommensale means “lives with man” or “shares man’s table.” And they will share the table of people!
Roof rats do not live in the forest. No sir. They live in homes just like yours and mine. They have lived in our homes for thousands of years and are perfectly adapted to an indoor lifestyle. They live in our houses and eat the food we provide for them. (If you have a bird feeder and, especially if you provide sunflower seeds for the birds, you can be almost certain that, at night, roof rats are coming to the sunflower seed feeder.) If the rats end up inside your house, you can you know for sure that they came from the houses of one of your neighbors. And, if you get rid of your rats and don’t take the necessary steps to seal the cracks and gaps that allowed them to gain access, others will follow. You can be sure of that.
I once found evidence of a mouse on my screened porch and so, just as an experiment, I set up three mouse traps and left them there for 24 hours. a day for 2 years. During that time I caught 36 roof rats……all of them trying to find a way inside my house. I could do the same thing in any neighborhood and get similar results. Most people would just be amazed at how many rats are actually out there!
If mice are in your attic and you don’t get rid of them, they will eventually invade the rest of the house and take over. They will enter your pantry. They will drag your bananas and apples from room to room. They will eat your bread and chew holes in any food container they find that is not made of metal. They will urinate and poop on everything in your house. They will chew holes in your couch and recliner to get stuffing for nesting material and they will chew holes in carpet and gnaw at the bottom of doors so they can get into other rooms. They will cause major flooding when they chew holes in the water hoses behind dishwashers and washing machines. They chew on electrical wires and cause short circuits and, in some cases, fires. Eventually, your whole house will reek of rat urine and feces, and you’ll be opening drawers and dresser cabinets to find litters of little pink, naked baby mice squirming, and you’ll have rats big, big, ugly ones that jump right in your face!
That would be an extreme case and most people simply won’t let things go that far. They will take action to get the rats before the rats get them. However, we caught 53 mice in one house over a 5 night period once and it wasn’t a pretty sight. The owners had already left!
Rats have been linked to the spread of serious diseases such as salmonellosis, typhoid and bubonic plague. Breathing in invisible dust from their droppings (feces) can cause serious respiratory problems, and droppings from rats have been directly linked to the deadly Hantavirus. Rats and mice shed thousands of hairs on everything.
Oh…and you won’t believe what a mouse or even a mouse can do to the inside of a car. (They’re attracted to the warmth of the engine after you park it, and they’ll take up residence there in a heartbeat and literally destroy upholstery and wiring!)
Bottom line…… under no circumstances do you want mice in or around your home. If you have them, don’t get confused. They are extremely difficult to catch and you don’t need to play with poisons unless you are a licensed and trained professional. Every year in this country, people try to use pesticides and rat poison in an attempt to save a few dollars and it leads to disappointing and in some cases tragic results. My advice…..Don’t do it! Leave rodent control to professionals who are trained and equipped.
Once the infestation is gone, you MUST seal all gaps and holes that allow rodents to enter the structure. If you don’t do it soon, there will be more rodents…..you can bet on it! If your rodents are gone and you don’t do further extermination work and end up with more rodents of the same, or different species, don’t be upset when you have to spend more money doing more rodent control work. .
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