Keep Raccoons Out
Raccoons will eat almost anything and are always on the lookout for a good nesting site, so our houses, with all their nooks and crannies and overflowing garbage cans and backyard vegetable gardens, are very appealing. Light, water, noise and chemical repellents may work in the short term, but raccoons eventually learn to ignore them. The best way to discourage these pests is to make your house and garden inaccessible.
- Cut back overhanging tree branches and brush so raccoons can't get onto the roof.
- Add chimney caps, or replace them if they're damaged. Fireplace chimneys make great dens for pregnant raccoons. If you hear raccoons in the firebox in the spring or summer, you may need to wait until the fall for the raccoons to leave before capping the chimney, or else call an animal control specialist.
- Block crawl spaces and other possible entry spots with securely nailed 1/4-in.-mesh hardware cloth. Wait until the fall after the babies are out but before hibernation, or until you're sure the raccoons are gone.
- Raccoons eat garbage, pet food, fruits and vegetables, and fish from garden ponds. Make trash cans inaccessible. Cover fish ponds with netting. Don't leave pet food outside.
- Protect vegetable gardens, especially if you're planting sweet corn, with wire electric fencing (consult the manufacturer's instructions for spacing and wiring instructions). Fencing is available from farm supply stores and Internet suppliers.
- If raccoons have already made a den in your attic or crawl space, put a radio, flashing lights, ammonia, mothballs or commercially available repellents in it, then give them a few nights to leave. To make sure they're gone, stuff the entry with newspapers. If the paper is still in place after a few days, the raccoons have left.
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Snap-type mousetraps, when well placed, can be an effective way to rid your house of mice. Snap traps may seem cruel, but compared with a slow death from a glue trap or poisoned bait, they're a more humane way to exterminate mice. And because you toss the remains in the garbage, there are no dead mouse surprises to encounter later.
Common mistakes are poor placement of traps and using too few of them. Mice have poor vision and prefer to feel their way along walls. Place snap traps along walls in areas where you've seen the telltale brown pellets. For an average-size house, two dozen mousetraps would not be too many.
The best technique is to set two traps, parallel to the wall, with the triggers facing out. While mice can jump over one trap, they can't jump two. Favorite baits of professional exterminators are chocolate syrup and peanut butter.
Live traps are best used in pairs in the same manner as conventional mousetraps. Place them back-to-back with the open doors on each end.
TIP: Before you sweep up mouse droppings, always spray them with a disinfectant spray such as Lysol. Mice can pass disease to humans through their waste.
How Common Household Pests Get In
Although your walls may appear solid, many walls are full of tiny pest passageways. Small insects can sneak through the tiniest cracks, so you may not be able to make your home absolutely bug-proof. But you can seal most gaps, especially the larger ones that let in mice and larger insects. Put on some old clothes, as you'll have to get on the ground, slink behind bushes and even crawl under your deck to examine your home's exterior. Take a flashlight and a mirror along. If mice are your main concern, also bring a pencil. If you can slide the pencil into a crack, it's large enough for a young mouse to squeeze through. Take your time and examine every square foot of your home. The key areas to inspect include wall penetrations, doors and windows, the foundation, dryer vents, exhaust fans and roof vents.