Thursday, February 20. 2020
Wildlife never ceases to amaze me! During my 35 years in the wildlife industry I have come across a hand full of raccoons that had certain disabilities. I have seen a few three-legged raccoons, some with only one eye and even a completely blind mother raccoon with babies.
This raccoon was found on a porch last week. As our technician got closer to investigate, he noticed that this raccoon had only one eye! The raccoon did not appear to be injured in any other way, he was in great physical shape and had chosen to sleep in a safe location. This is something we see quite often at this time of year as male raccoons are constantly searching for females to mate with.
So how do these raccoons adapt so quickly with a disability and not only survive but also thrive?
Blind / One Eye:
When a raccoon looses a sense such as their sight or a portion of it, their animal instinct kicks in and they immediately know what to do. They start relying on their other senses to survive. For example, raccoons have very sensitive hands with long fingers, toes and nails. Only humans and other primates have similar numbers of receptor cells found in their hands. Suzanne MacDonald from York University stated “they can get an image of what an object is without even looking at it, so the raccoons actually see with their hands.”
I researched and found a National Geographic article on the topic. The article stated, “It turns out that quadrupeds, the scientific term for four-legged animals, are far more resilient than humans when it comes to losing a limb. In some cases, the lack of a leg amounts to little more than a mild inconvenience. Why? Because animals have a variety of coping mechanisms that allow them to thrive on three legs” (Annie Roth, 2018).
When a quadruped loses a leg, the animal can keep its balance by taking a tripod stance and still distribute their weight evenly. Animals will bounce back surprisingly quickly, especially when compared to the recovery time a human would take from loosing a limb.
Raccoons are great problem solvers that adapt easily to new environments and objectives. A change to their physical being such as loosing a limb or loosing their sight, may not be as big of a challenge to a raccoon as we may think.
Wednesday, February 19. 2020
Over my 35 years as a wildlife professional I have seen all kinds of DIY attempts by homeowners to drive animals out of their attic. Our customers have placed everything from mothballs, lights, blaring radios, ultrasonic sound devices, ammonia soaked rags and even coyote urine in their attic. After unsuccessfully trying one or a few of these methods, we get the call.
Mothballs: Wildlife do not vacate an attic that has mothballs in it. Once they are dispersed in the attic it is virtually impossible to remove them. The vapours often permeate into the rooms below. Our customers have developed headaches, nausea, dizziness, and/or vomiting after being exposed to mothball (naphthalene) vapours. Animal studies have suggested that naphthalene can cause cancer.
Lights: Lights do not deter wildlife from living in the attic. Animals are attracted to attics because they provide a warm, safe location which is protected from predators and the elements. There has been documented cases where a light placed in an attic was either knocked over by the animals or the electrical wire were chewed on, which resulted in a house fire.
Radios: Placing a radio in the attic with the volume turned up seems to have little effect on the animals living there, in fact they might enjoy the noise. I once removed a family of raccoons nesting directly beside the radio. Using a extension cord to power the radio can be chewed on by wildlife and potentially cause a fire.
Ultrasonic Devices: The frequency emitted by these devices has no affect on raccoons or squirrels but they can harm humans. I was called out to a rental property to remove squirrels from the attic. The tenant was unaware that the landlord had placed an ultrasonic device in the attic a week prior, which coincided exactly with when she started to experience severe migraine headaches. Her headaches stopped after I unplugged the device.
Ammonia Soaked Rags: Animals do not seem to be bothered by the smell of ammonia. I have witnessed situations where ammonia soaked rags were placed in a fireplace, directly below a mother raccoon and her babies. The smell was very strong but it did not cause the mother raccoon to leave.
Coyote Urine: I am amazed at how many of my customers have purchased coyote urine in an attempt to solve their wildlife problem. It is, in my opinion, the modern day “snake oil”, a product that is sold by seedy profiteers trying to exploit an unsuspecting public. First off, how do you think someone would successfully extract urine from a coyote, they would have to be pretty “Wiley”. Secondly, most wildlife living in a city would not know what a coyote looks like, let alone what it smelled like. Animals cannot learn to be afraid of a coyote by smell alone, they must have a negative experience with that animal. Even if they were to have a run in with a coyote how does that make them afraid of the smell of their urine. It just doesn’t make any sense at all.
In my professional opinion the only tested and proven means of solving wildlife problems is to have them humanely removed using hands-on removal / one way doors and by installing animal-proofing to the building structure.
By Brad Gates, B.Sc.
Brad Gates is the owner and president of AAA Gates Wildlife Control, our franchisor. He has over 35 years experience in the humane wildlife removal and prevention industry.
Tuesday, February 4. 2020
We were performing a routine check of a customers attic when we came across this rather large, dormant Paper Wasp Nest. Paper Wasps will build their nests in meadows or fields but prefer to nest under an overhang such as the eaves of a roof. These wasps must have found an entry into the attic and preferred to be more protected from the elements.
Paper Wasps gather fibres from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva and use to construct water-resistant nests made of grey or brown papery material. Their nests generally do not cause any structural damage to buildings.
It is best to leave these wasps alone if they are present in an area where they will not come in contact with people. Paper wasps do not present a danger unless the nest is disturbed, but if provoked they are aggressive and will defend their nest. The best time to remove a Paper Wasp Nest is during the winter because these wasps will not return to the same nesting site the following year and leave the nest after the first frost of the year.
One benefit to having a Paper Wasp Nest near your home presents itself if you have a garden nearby. They are predators of residential and agricultural pests, making them especially valuable near vegetable gardens, where they provide natural and free control of herbivorous caterpillars.
Thursday, January 30. 2020
There’s No Use Crying Over Spilt Paint….Or Is There?
A can of white paint was stored at the side of the house with the lid not being firmly attached. Curiosity got the better of passing raccoons. Using their nibble fingers, they managed to remove the lid and of course decided to dip their paws in the paint!
Which way did they end up going? We will never know!
Wednesday, January 29. 2020
Imagine You Are A Raccoon: Week 3
A weekly series by Brad Gates, B.Sc. Stay tuned each Wednesday for the continuation of this story!
The very next day you instinctively look for a secondary home as a place to escape to, should the attic den site ever become unsafe. Luckily, after a few more nights of searching you come across an uncapped chimney on a building nearby. Clambering down the sooty inside of the chimney reminds you of the hollow tree den site you once occupied in the forest. Moving to this concrete jungle has served you well, especially when you consider the existence of many potential den sites and the availability of food during most of the year.
As in some of the chimneys you have previously explored, you discover the dried out carcass of a squirrel on top of the fireplace damper. You are not sure how this happens, but if the truth be told, squirrels mistakenly jump into uncapped chimneys in search of nesting sites. Once they fall to the bottom, shear panic sets in as numerous attempts to climb up the smooth chimney walls fail. If their efforts to escape go undetected by the occupants of the building, the squirrels will starve to death within 4 to 6 days.
Tuesday, January 28. 2020
Bats must find a winter roost where they can maintain a body temperature at a few degrees above freezing. Choosing the perfect location to hibernate can be critical for their survival. If the roost temperature goes below zero they will freeze to death. And if temperatures get too warm they will use up their fat reserves too quickly and starve to death.
In order for the bats to stay in the hibernating state, called Torpor, they need to maintain their body temperature at 3 degrees Celsius. When it gets too warm or too cold outside, they tend to move within the walls of the house to find a location that is 3 degrees Celsius. Due to the cold snap in temperature that we had in Toronto last week, this bat was able to stay in it’s hibernating state and ended up finding its way into the living space of the home while looking for warmer temperatures.
Finding a bat inside your house is typically a sign that there is a colony of bats living inside the attic. When baby bats try to venture through the entry hole to the outside, they sometimes loose their footing and find themselves inside the wall space and end up popping out in an unfinished basement.
Please note: If a bat is found inside a house during the winter months do not release it outside, it will not survive. Call a local wildlife rehabilitator and they will care for it until the spring. Saving the life of every single bat is critical as their numbers are rapidly declining. In fact, the little brown bat is now on Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry's Endangered List.
Monday, January 27. 2020
COUNTDOWN TO BABY SEASON: “Is Having Squirrels Living In Your Attic So Bad?”
Over the years I have had plenty of customers relieved to hear that they have squirrels, rather than raccoons, in the attic. It makes sense why they feel having a smaller critter in the attic would mean less damage, right?
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Squirrels can be every bit as destructive, if not more destructive than raccoons. Squirrels are rodents and are habitual chewers, meaning that their front teeth are always growing and they must continuously chew on anything and everything to grind those teeth down. I have seen extensive damage to attic spaces over the years, including damage to insulation, electrical wires, drywall and even to the wood structure of the home.
In my opinion, the most destructive animal to have inside your home is the small Red Squirrel. The reason is Red Squirrels love to burrow into the insulation where all your electrical wires are normally hidden to raccoons and the larger Grey Squirrels. By tunnelling into the insulation, they create holes, causing easy passage for the buildings heat to escape through the insulation. This would result higher electrical bills for heat in the winter and for air conditioning in the summer.
Another reason for the increase in damage caused by Red Squirrels is because they store an abundance of pine cones and black walnuts in the attic. This means they can stay inside the attic for prolonged periods of time during the colder months without ever leaving. We have had customers open walls during a renovation and have thousands of pine cones pour onto the floor. With no reason to leave the attic they are spending 10 times more time in the attic than a typical Grey squirrel would. More time to cause damage.
It is very important to deal with a wildlife intrusion quickly to prevent them from doing further damage to your home. It is also less expensive to remove wildlife before the babies are born.
Friday, January 24. 2020
Jumping to Conclusions!
Mother squirrels are so intent in retrieving their dependent babies when we remove them from the nest. Sometimes the mother squirrel’s are so overzealous, they don’t often give us the opportunity to place them in our release jug before aggressively approaching. When a mother squirrel recognizes that we are holding her babies she will not hesitate to jump on us in an attempt to get them back.
To avoid getting bit by a protective mother squirrel, it is critical that we move quickly to give her one of the babies back. This immediately takes her focus away from us and efforts turn towards collecting and relocating her baby.
There is never a dull moment in the world of humane wildlife control! The unpredictability of our wild subjects keeps us on our toes. There are not many jobs that offer this type of excitement.
Thursday, January 23. 2020
This young acrobat has a lot to learn. This is the first time outside of his safe attic den and with someone watching, he is frozen with fear.
With the recent onset of male squirrels chasing females throughout the tree tops, baby squirrels will emerge from their dens in just 3 short months. Juvenile squirrels are not born with the fearless ability of performing high wire acts. They need to slowly develop the necessary skills over a few weeks. Baby squirrels clinging to the side of houses and hiding behind chairs result in countless calls to our office by concerned homeowners.
It may be hard to resist but they really don’t need our help. Without our interference they will carry on to become spectacular gymnasts.
Wednesday, January 22. 2020
Over the last 35 years in business we have developed wildlife removal and release on-site techniques that guarantee humaneness and result in the successful reunion of the mother animal with her babies. The animals have so much to teach us and the learning never stops.
In the case of a raccoon removal, so much of the animals behaviour happens when no one is around to witness it, in the dead of night. Therefore if we want to discover what actually goes on when we are not there we must utilize cameras. A strategically placed camera can teach us a whole lot about how an animal interacts with our devices when retrieving her offspring.
This picture shows a mother raccoon returning to her babies, which have been place inside our cardboard heated reunion box for safe keeping. Among many things, we have learned that a mother raccoon will first look for her babies where she last had them, in this case inside the chimney. Also, to obtain the highest rate of success when reuniting a mother raccoon with her offspring the reunion box must be placed as close as possible to her point of entry into the structure. We cannot always rely on the babies being seen or making noise to alert her to their whereabouts. We need her to literally bump into the box upon her return to her den.
It is the opportunity to observe wildlife and discover behaviours that will assist us in improving our techniques that is of great interest and importance to me and my company.
Tuesday, January 21. 2020
I am extremely proud to say AAA Wildlife is the first company accredited by the BCSPCA’s new AnimalKind program. The program started in 2018, and we have been accredited by them since.
For a wildlife control company to become accredited by the AnimalKind program, the entire operation must be committed to protect the wellbeing of the animals under their care. Other commitments involve ethical and legal business practices, proper training of humane operating procedures, the use of removal methods and equipment that protect animal welfare and providing sufficient staff to follow-up on the work in progress.
Before AnimalKind the average consumer could not distinguish between an inhumane wildlife control operator and a humane one. The BCSPCA has managed to develop standards that promote animal friendly wildlife control. It was a privilege to have been called upon to provide some guidance with respect to our company’s humane procedures and practices.
Because of AnimalKind the world will be a better place for our urban wildlife. Through the AnimalKind accreditation program the proof is in the pudding and consumers can hire wildlife control companies with confidence. Knowing that the AnimalKind accredited company is committed to the animal’s welfare.
I am so excited about the future and the positive impact that AnimalKind will have on our cities and I cannot wait for AnimalKind to become a North American standard.
Monday, January 20. 2020
The most common questions we get asked by our customers is “How do the animals get on my roof?” and “How can I keep them from getting on my roof?"
The simple answers to these questions are “If they want to get on your roof they will find a way.” and “It is next to impossible to keep them off your roof.”
The fact of the matter is that all animals are opportunistic and they are going to seek out roofs that are the easiest to climb on to. Therefore, if your house has tree branches overhanging the roof or vines growing on the walls then you can be guaranteed to have animals climbing all over the roof looking for a way to break into the attic.
While we have often witnessed raccoons and squirrels climbing the downspouts and even the brick walls to get on the roof, homeowners can still take steps to minimize the "animal traffic” on their roof by removing overhanging branches and vines. If it easier for the neighbourhood critters to get onto your neighbours roof than it is for them to get on yours, then you ultimately will decrease your chances of having a future wildlife problem.
Having said that, please do not go to the extent of removing the trees around your home thinking you can solve an existing wildlife problem. I had a customer a few years ago spend $3,000 to cut down 3 very large maple trees that were overhanging his roof. His thinking was, if the trees were gone then his raccoon problem in his attic would also be gone. He quickly learned that the mother raccoon would not miss a beat and resort to climbing the downspouts, continuing to live in the attic with her 2 week old babies.
Just as the old adage states, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Friday, January 17. 2020
Who Really Benefits from Trapping and Relocation?
By far, the majority of the public believes that trapping and relocating wildlife is a good solution to a problem they are having with “nuisance wildlife."
The public thinks that if the offending animal is trapped and relocated and the number of animals in the neighbourhood is ultimately reduced, then the problem will go away. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The vacancy created by moving an animal out of the neighbourhood offers an opportunity for other animals in the vicinity to move in to take advantage of the existing food and shelter. Since no overall reduction in the number of animals will be achieved in the long run, trapping and relocation is nothing but an exercise in futility and a waste of money.
Nevertheless, start-up operators are capitalizing on the public’s belief that trapping and relocating is the answer, causing a huge comeback of this once rarely used practice.
Why then do we outright ignore the sound arguments of the past that labelled trapping and relocation as inhumane, not scientifically sound nor a long-term solution?
• Trapping creates orphans by taking a mother animal away from her dependent offspring.
• Wildlife will do anything to escape the confinement of the trap, often causing serious self-injury and sometimes death.
• Relocating wildlife away from their known food sources and shelter causes stress and starvation.
• Studies have shown that trapped animals can die of stress related causes even days after being released.
• Dumping wildlife into the territory of another animal can end up in vicious territorial fights over food and shelter.
• Transferring a sick animal into a population of healthy animals spreads infectious diseases.
• Exposure to adverse weather conditions and inconsistent monitoring of the traps while confined can kill the animal.
Please speak-out against the inhumane use of traps as a means of wildlife control!
Thursday, January 16. 2020
Recognizing the adverse repercussions caused by wildlife trapping and relocation prompted our founder, Brad Gates to develop a more humane approach that safe-guards the welfare of our urban wildlife while providing a long lasting solution for the customer.
He set out 35 years ago to create a socially acceptable and humane solution to urban wildlife control that would minimize the stress caused to the animal. Development and application of passive removal techniques, on-site release methods, together with effective re-entry prevention measures provides the answer to solving wildlife problems. Over the years we continue to adapt with the animals and improve our methods to better suit their natural biology and behaviour. Our goal is to "work with mother nature, not against her."
Passive Removal Techniques
• One way doors have been designed to install at the point of wildlife entry in order to permit the normal exiting of the resident wildlife while preventing re-entry. While this method appears to be a simple and effective means of solving wildlife intrusions, it can prove to be as inhumane as trapping and relocation. The use of improperly designed one way doors, failure to search for offspring and without close monitoring can result in unnecessary harm and possible death. It should also be noted that the complexity of situations that exist demands a wide breadth of knowledge of unique food habits, moving patterns, birth cycles, and behavioral reactions to different stimuli.
On-site Release Methods
• Leaving animals on-site in familiar territory allows their continued access to existing food and secondary shelter opportunities. Close monitoring is then possible and is vital, especially during the birthing season to ensure that nursing animal mothers have not been separated from dependent offspring. Baby animal(s) are placed in weather protective/heated releasing boxes which are securely placed outside adjacent to the point of entry. This allows the mother animal to relocate at her own pace to predetermined alternative den sites.
Re-entry Prevention Applications
• To avoid new or recurring problems created by opportunistic wildlife, animal proofing measures must be implemented. This long term preventative approach prevents potential attractions and unnecessary removal/repair expenses. Animal proofing measures include: trimming tree branches to prevent easy access to the roof, screening chimneys, roof vents and other potential animal entry areas, regular roof maintenance by replacing missing or damaged shingles. Cleaning eavestroughs to permit proper drainage and preventing roof structure rot are also part of the prevention techniques. Removal of food sources by securing garbage can and composting container lids and refraining from feeding wildlife are as important.
In conclusion, these non-trapping/entry prevention methods will create a positive and enjoyable association with our urban wildlife while minimizing potential conflicts. These methods are becoming more and more accepted and are adopted by an increasing number of wildlife removal companies and wildlife interest groups not only in Ontario and British Columbia but across Canada and the USA.
The humane treatment is an essential objective. Working together through mutual understanding is therefore critical and beneficial to all.
Wednesday, January 15. 2020
An Avoidable Event
Following up in a timely fashion on all work in progress is not only important but it can also mean life or death for the animals involved. This is especially important during the spring season when dependent babies may be involved.
Unfortunately, there are some wildlife removal companies that choose to make this essential task a low priority. A one-way-door is installed at the point of entry and a return visit is never scheduled to check if the job in question was proceeding according to plan. What generally happens is the mother animal will exit through the one-way-door and become locked on the outside while her young babies are still in the attic. It is not uncommon for our company to be called out to rescue the babies from the attic because the company that initiated the work refused to return.
During the baby season each and every job should be checked regularly to ensure the mother animal has not been separated from her offspring. A sure sign that this has happened is when a desperate attempt is made to chew or claw their way back in at the point of entry. When a technician fails to return to the site to conduct a follow up inspection the separated babies could die a horrible death without their mother.
The juvenile babies in the attached picture were trapped inside the attic. Notice the screened vent on the roof behind them, blocking the mothers access back into the attic.
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