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When temperatures dip, critters may move in

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POSTED: January 10, 2014 10:30 a.m.
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The most common furry home invaders are squirrels, according to Liberty County Agricultural Extension agent Robert Bell.

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As temperatures drop, it’s common for Coastal Georgia homes to be invaded by unwanted, furry house guests, including squirrels, raccoons and possums, according to Liberty County Agricultural Extension agent Robert Bell. Bats and armadillos also can be nuisances during winter months, he said.
Furry pests can make their homes under houses or in attics, said Bell, who added that even homes built on concrete slabs are not immune to subterranean pests.
“It’s not uncommon to see armadillos to bore under the concrete slab,” he said. “I’ve gotten a number of calls from people complaining about armadillos living under their homes ... The No. 1 offender of furry creatures that invade our homes is the squirrel, usually the gray squirrel. They like to find shelter in attics. In addition to carrying fleas, lice and ticks, squirrels will chew on wiring and insulation. The costs for damages they cause can be significant.”
He said raccoons, possums and skunks living under the homes of local residents are less common, but the few that do take up residence can cause problems since they also carry fleas, lice and ticks. Raccoons can be particularly ferocious and destructive because they can rip off siding and tear off shingles. Possums, he said, are more docile but can carry the same insects as raccoons and squirrel.
Bats are not as likely to be a problem because they tend to hibernate during the winter in caves and other places where they can stay warm. However, they have been known to stay in an attic with a chimney if the owner uses the fireplace on a regular basis.
“There are five species of bats in Georgia,” Bell said. “Some of these bats carry rabies. It’s their droppings, though, that can cause the most problems. Bat guano has a strong (ammonia) odor, which can be a problem for people with respiratory issues. Most of all, it’s the insects that are attracted to the droppings that cause the greatest problems. They also carry diseases.”
Bell said bats leave their roost in the evening, so that’s the best time to block their return. He said the best way to prevent pests is exclusion, which means plugging up all potential entry points, even holes as small as a dime. Bats are protected by both the state and federal government and said home-owners can only deal with them if they’re causing significant damage to their homes.
The extension agent said a disease called white-nose syndrome is killing bats by the millions. It causes bats to come out of hibernation early when there are fewer insects and other small creatures to feed on, he said. They end up starving to death. David Mixon, regional supervisor for game management with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said bats are protected mostly because they’re migratory, not because white-nose syndrome is killing them to a point that some species are threatened.
“They eat insects, so they’re a beneficial animal,” said Mixon, who agreed with Bell about preventing bats from getting in attics before they become a problem. “You can exclude bats. Preventive maintenance goes a long way. It’s a whole lot easier to keep them out than to get them out. If you have a large colony of them, you may want to call a professional to get rid of them.”
Mixon said his office receives a lot of calls about nuisance wildlife, although he said he receives more calls in the spring than in late fall or winter. He agreed with Bell the pest most commonly reported is the squirrel, but he reiterated it’s better to ensure pests have not access into your home than wait until they become a problem.
For more information about nuisance wildlife, go to georgiawildlife.com/nuisancewildlife.

 

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