GUIDE TO IDENTIFYING COMMON WILDLIFE INVADERS
No matter how big of a fan you are of cute, furry animals, wildlife presents many dangers if they try to make their homes inside of ours. One raccoon is a lot larger and can create many more issues than one single ant in comparison, and they can also be aggressive as they may be frightened or feel threatened. Below is a guide to some of the most common critters that may cause an issue for property owners in the midwest region.
Appearance — Raccoons are black and gray in color, and they are known for the black ‘mask’ over their eyes. They are furry and most commonly have a ringed pattern on their tail. When fully grown, a raccoon may be around 2-3 feet in length.
Habitat — Raccoons commonly reside in forested areas with access to a water source, but may also sometimes live in fields near livestock watering areas. They build dens in a variety of places including hollow trees, ground burrows, brush piles, barns, haystack, or rock crevices (and sometimes in people’s homes or attics!)
Reproduction — Raccoons usually mate in a period triggered by increasing daylight between late January and mid-March, then the baby raccoons (called ‘cubs’) will typically be born between late March and late May.
Diet — Raccoons are opportunistic eaters and their diet is most often determined heavily by its environment. Common foods include fruits, plants, nuts, berries, insects, rodents, frogs, eggs, and crayfish. In urban environments, raccoons often sift through garbage for food.
Damage — Common raccoon activities include raiding your trash cans, eating crops, stealing fish from ponds, and invading your attic or living underneath the porch.
Threats to Humans — Raccoons are one of the major hosts of rabies in the United States. They are especially a threat in areas where their populations are growing. They are known to raid garages and garbage cans in search of food, as well as damage roofs and chimneys in search for a place to build their den.
Unique Fact — Raccoons are highly intelligent and have a highly developed sense of touch.
Appearance — Squirrels will vary in coloring depending on the region in which they reside and the colors range from whitish, grey, yellow, red, brown, or even black. They have a long furry body with a bushy tail. They range anywhere from 6-15” tall and a squirrel’s tail may be just as long as its body.
Habitat — In the summer, squirrels will nest in tree cavities or build nests in branches. They may overwinter in tree holes but are very commonly known for invading homes and structures looking for a place to keep warm.
Reproduction — Squirrels breed twice per year. This usually happens in December or January as well as during the early summer months. The birth of baby squirrels may come during any month other than December and January.
Diet — Squirrels eat a wide variety of plants, including nuts, seeds, conifer cones, fruits, fungi, and green vegetation.
Damage — Destructive squirrel habits include excavating bulbs and seeds, stealing fruits and berries, gnawing through wood siding, and digging small holes in your lawn to collect and hoard food.
Threats — All tree squirrels are considered pests because they frequently enter attics in the winter but rarely do they pose a health threat to homeowners. Outdoors, squirrels often damage electrical wires and telephone lines.
Unique Fact — Many squirrel populations have adapted to living in urban environments and are often the only wild animals, besides birds, that some people ever see.
Appearance — Bats have a hairy body and can vary in color from tan to black. They have four appendages – the front two are used as wings and all four are used for crawling. Bats vary in size depending on the species but the average adult bat is 2 3/16 ” to 7 ½” in length with a wingspan anywhere from 6-15”
Habitat — The preferred roost of bats depends on the species, but all enjoy dark, secluded, and protected areas. This may include attics, churches, tree cavities, or caves.
Reproduction — Indiana brown bats will breed during the first of autumn. Bats will have their babies (called ‘pups’) anytime between late May and early July. It typically takes babies about 4 weeks to be able to fly.
Diet — 70% of bats consume insects (which is great for natural pest control!) and some bats eat fruit and nectar while other carnivorous bats will prey on small mammals, birds, lizards, and frogs.
Damage — Structural damage from their waste (guano and urine) and the introduction of bat mites or bat bugs.
Threats — Bats pose several serious health threats to humans. Bats are known carriers of rabies in the United States and can infect humans as well as other animals. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you have had any unprotected contact with a bat. Bat droppings can also cause disease such as histoplasmosis. Homes with the presence of bats may also become infested with bat mites or bat bugs.
Unique Fact — In many states, including both Indiana and Kentucky, bats are protected mammals. Call Black Diamond at 877-DEAD-BUG for regulations and other help before bat-proofing your home, office, or property.
Appearance — Opossums are white or grey with a pointed face, hairless ears, and a rat-like tail. They can grow to be up to 40 inches in length which are about the size of a house cat.
Habitat — Opossums generally prefer to make their home near streams or swamps, but they can live in many areas including arid climates, woods, and open fields. They are commonly found in tree cavities and also sometimes take shelter in the burrows of other animals.
Reproduction — Opossum breeding may begin as early as February, and the baby opossums are born between mid-February through early April.
Diet — An opossum diet consists of carrion, rodents, insects, seals, slugs, birds, eggs, frogs, plants, fruit, and grain. Like raccoons, they may also eat human food, table scraps, and dog/cat food.
Damage — Opossum damage may include tipping and looting trash cans, raiding barns or poultry houses, destroying ductwork or chewing through electrical wires, and nesting in your attic, basement, crawlspace, or underneath the house/porch.
Threats — In rare cases, opossums may bite when threatened. Beyond that, if an opossum makes its nest in your home, attic, or garage, it can and most likely will get very messy. They may also destroy poultry, game birds, and their nests.
Unique Fact — When they feel threatened or startled, opossums will bare their teeth and hiss.
Appearance — Skunks have very distinctive black and white fur with strong forefeet and long claws for digging. Skunks average in size from 20-30” long (including their tail) and may weigh anywhere from 6-10 pounds.
Habitat — Skunks are adaptable and are able to thrive in many different habitats, as long as food and shelter are available. Their dens are typically made in tree hollows, hallowed out logs, brush piles, abandoned animal burrows, or underneath porches and other structures.
Reproduction — Skunks mate in early spring usually around March. They are polygynous which means successful males will mate with more than one female each season. Baby skunks (called ‘kits’) are typically born in May.
Diet — Skunks eat beetles, grasshoppers, grubs and worms, bird eggs, small rodents, frogs, fruit and berries, and mushrooms.
Damage — Signs of skunk damage includes holes in your lawn that are small and cone-shaped (about 3-4” in diameter), damaged corn, looted trash cans, and skunk tracks which have five toes on each foot with visible claws.
Threats — Skunks can carry contagious diseases, viruses, and parasites that can be transmitted to humans and/or pets through a bite. Some of the more serious illnesses include leptospirosis, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, intestinal roundworm, and rabies.
Unique Fact — While many will think of bats first, skunks are actually the primary carriers of rabies in the Midwest region of the United States.
While many pest-proofing techniques that Black Diamond can provide for your home or office will keep out wildlife, you should still take additional precautions to be sure your property is not attracting wild animals. From keeping trash in sealed bags within bins with tight lids will help prevent opossums and raccoons from rooting around. Also, cutting back tree limbs from the roofline is a good step to prevent squirrels and birds from gaining access to your attic.
Even if you follow all of the steps and tips to prevent wildlife, still keep an eye out for their signs of invasion. You never want to be caught off guard or allow a critter to outstay their welcome and create serious damage to your home. It can be unnerving as a homeowner to discover an issue with wildlife on your property, but Black Diamond can handle all of the issues and damage repairs for you to keep your family and home safe.