Pest-Proofing Homes for the Winter

Features - Urban Wildlife Control Issue

Critter Control’s Joe Felegi shares what PMPs should keep in mind when pest-proofing homes for the winter.

September 26, 2022

As colder temperatures approach, it’s normal for wildlife to start seeking acceptable areas to shelter for the winter. It’s important for pest management professionals to keep in mind some key points that will improve their ability to prepare homes for seasonal changes. Since it’s not unusual for rodents and other wildlife to find entry in homes and structures, a full inspection of the home is the first step in identifying not only current entry points, but all potential areas of concern that should be addressed. At Critter Control, our goal is to always provide a long-term, permanent solution for our customers.

TRAINING. Critter Control spends quite a bit of time training our team on what to look for and the best exclusion techniques — but most important are proper safety measures. Pest management can be dangerous work, especially during the winter months with potential snow and ice on roofs.

One commonly overlooked hazard are pine needles and other tree debris, which can build up on roofs and can increase the chances of a dangerous slip. It is strongly recommended to require training in safety harnesses and fall equipment. Each employee needs to be able to recognize hazards such as uneven ground, power lines, loose roof tiles or shingles and the proper equipment needed to complete the job safely. Education is key in improving safety among employees regardless of weather-specific impacts.

PROFESSIONAL PRODUCTS. Wildlife removal professionals always should use high-grade products and sealants that will last a long time when sealing off access points and protecting homes and structures from animals. This will give the customers peace of mind and confidence in the materials used while having a professional appearance. This would include high-quality chimney gaps, roof vent guards and dryer vent covers. There are several distributors that specialize in high-quality animal proof supplies like Hy-C, Ridge-Guard and Pest Armor that we would recommend buying from versus your average big box hardware store that would last longer and yield better outcomes.

ANIMAL REMOVAL SAFETY. Proper identification of animal species either by the feces, damage caused or other findings is very important, regardless of season. There are several ways to effectively remove wildlife from structures. The most commonly used methods are one-way doors which allow the animal to leave and not re-enter. Using an appropriate and humane trap can also be very effective, however, check with your state and local ordinances on what is allowed as it can differ state by state. In specific circumstances, there are methods like repellents or eviction fluids that can make wildlife entry more difficult.

You want to make sure that removal is completed prior to exclusion to prevent animals from being trapped inside, causing more damage or potentially foul odors. Certain species create different issues throughout the year, but it is important to keep in mind regulations around specific species.

While certain species will vary depending on location, it’s important to know the major problem causers in your area. During the winter, some animals, such as bats, will make increased attempts to take refuge in homes during winter months but should not be removed and excluded during this time of year as they hibernate during the winter and begin mating season in the spring.

Protected species require professionals to take extra precaution when determining removal and exclusion practices. For example, most states do not allow the removal of bats between April and August. This is due to maternity colonies that could be found in the structure following the spring mating season that may be disrupted or put at risk. It is best advised to wait until mid-to-late August to begin exclusion practices for bats. It’s critical to always follow local state and federal laws when handling wildlife issues.

When wildlife enter areas in the home, particularly attics, they can cause damage to the insulation by nesting and tunneling through it. This can reduce the R value, or resistance to heat flow, of the insulation, causing higher energy cost to heat or cool the home. In some cases, it may be necessary to recommend replacing the damaged areas along with cleaning up feces and urine-marked spots.

Critters will look for any way into a structure, including often overlooked places.

When handling this type of work, additional safety and sanitation precautions should be addressed. Make sure employees are trained to use properly fitted respirators, tyvek suits, latex gloves, etc. Some extreme cases may require air filtration systems or large insulation machines to complete.

Some of the main takeaways when pest-proofing homes for winter relate to understanding the species you will deal with, proper training and safety measures, and weather-specific issues that might occur. Proper training will protect your employees, as well as the animals they handle. Local and state regulations may restrict the ability to remove certain types of animals, depending on protective listings or mating habits, but it is important to be informed in order to ethically and humanely handle animals while providing a service to customers, especially during winter months.

The author is general manager at Critter Control.