Can you handle your wildlife problem yourself? In some cases absolutely, if you are willing to do a little work. You can save money. (click here for full list of do-it-yourself wildlife jobs listed below) In other cases, almost certainly not. Many wildlife removal cases are very complex. You are not dealing with something as simple as fixing a leaky pipe or electrical wiring. There are many wild animals, and they exhibit a wide array of behaviors in many different situations, and there are hundreds of traps and tools used in wildlife control. It took me years, and hundreds of jobs, before I became a truly competent wildlife control professional. So many do-it-yourself attempts I see make me cringe, and result in more damage for the homeowner, more expense later, and often inhumane suffering for the animals.
Example do-it-yourself job:
PROBLEM: Raccoons are tipping over your garbage cans every night.
SOLUTION: Keep the garbage cans in the garage, or bungee cord the lids shut.
Example when you need to hire professional help:
PROBLEM: A raccoon is living in your attic space.
SOLUTION: There is a 90% chance that there is a litter of baby raccoons in the attic. The litter must be found and removed, either by crawling through the attic in proper biohazard gear (raccoons can spread roundworm and other diseases) or by identifying the area in the walls or ceiling and cutting a hole and removing the babies. Then the female adult can be captured, either by using the young as a lure, or by mounting a special trap on the entry hole. If the young are completely inaccessible, male raccoon gland scent must be properly applied to drive her out, or adjustments must be made based on time of year. The entry holes must be repaired with steel. The damage in the attic must be repaired. The feces in the attic must be removed and the attic space decontaminated. The mother and young must be treated according to the laws in your state.
Hire a pro if you want to be legal, safe, do what is best for the animals, and most of all, get the job done correctly!
"But I can't afford to pay for wildlife removal!" - It can get pricey, but as with many things in life, the cost of doing nothing, or of doing inferior work, ends up costing more in the end. Wildlife can cause considerable property damage if left unchecked. Not to mention potential health damage. And many do-it-yourself attempts that I have seen have led to costly errors and accidents, and the need to hire a pro who now has to fix mistakes first, and which leads to a more expensive job. I have been to many cases of homes for sale, and home inspections that have revealed animal problems that have been left unaddressed. Duct damage, wire damage, pipe damage, odor problems, health risks. I have seen several cases in which wildlife have substantially lowered the value of a house or building. Take care of the problem properly, do it once, and prevent bigger future costs down the line.
How To Guide: Who should I hire? - What questions to ask, what to look for, who NOT to hire.
Guide: How much does wildlife removal cost? - Analysis of the wildlife control business, & prices.
When people have a leaky pipe, some call a plumber.
When people have a toothache, most call a dentist.
When people have a wildlife problem, many research "how to" online.
I feel like I could go on an on. Part of the point of this page is that in my years as a wildlife operator, I'm a bit frustrated in the number of cases I see in which people, for some reason I don't understand, assume that wildlife control is a simple task, one that the city or county can just take care of for free, or which the homeowner can just do on their own. It's an incredibly complex field! It's hard to do right. I myself am a fast learner, I work hard, and I'm overall very competent. I do my own home repairs, I make my own websites, I even do my own legal work better than many lawyers I know, etc. But it took me YEARS to become a competent wildlife removal professional. When dealing with a variety of wild animals in a variety of situations and variety of architectures, etc, things get very complicated. The time of year, breeding cycle, weather, all these things factor into animal behavior, and are necessary components of doing many jobs correctly. That said, I'm going to list out types of jobs that are, in fact, do-it-yourself type jobs.
Example Do-It-Yourself Wildlife Control Jobs:
Wildlife stealing pet food - keep the pet food indoors.
Wildlife entering home through pet door - bolt the door shut for a few weeks.
Wildlife eating from garbage cans - keep cans in garage or strap them shut with bungee cords.
Animals pooping in pool - strong fence around pool, or fence around pool steps, or boards with nails on steps (at your own risk of course!)
Raccoons eating goldfish in pond - concrete blocks or chicken wire in pond for fish to hide in.
Squirrels in birdfeeder - get a new birdfeeder, there are squirrelproof ones out there.
Squirrels in garden or flowerbeds - net the whole area, stake down perimeter.
Snake in yard - you can just leave it alone, and it'll probably leave.
Snake in house - maybe you can sweep it out with a broom.
Snake in pool - lift it out from a distance with a pool skimmer and drop it in the yard.
Armadillos digging - make sure none are in the hole, and bury a steel mesh underground at the hole and cover with dirt. Won't work with groundhogs.
Skunk/Opossum under deck or shed - use a flashlight, and when they are all out, install a heavy duty steel fence around the perimeter of the shed or deck, down into the dirt.
Dead animal in house - sniff it out, and then crawl in the attic or cut open a wall and remove it.
In some of the above scenarios, we are talking about building physical barriers to keep animals away from a certain area. In other scenarios, the barrier is temporary (like with the pet door) until the wildlife will become rehabituated to leave the area (in this case the pet door) alone.
In all of the above cases, it may be tempting to have the problem animal trapped and removed from the premises. And believe me, that does work, and is often the most effective method, especially if one or a few problem animals have adopted a specific behavior that you do not like. But it doesn't necessarily solve the problem permanently. A new animal might come by in the future. The thing is, many people believe that cage trapping is simple, and a simple fix. But it is not. Again, I have seen hundreds of cases of attempted do-it-yourself trapping fail to solve the problem because of considerations the homeowner never thought of.
Example Jobs that ARE NOT Do-It-Yourself:
Animals in the attic - Any time animals are living in the attic or walls of a home, the situation is going to be too complex. There will be a nest of babies you don't know about. There will be many very important variables. This work takes a A LOT of experience, and special tools, to do right.
Bats in a building - absolutely NOT for those who don't understand bats, and who haven't trained extensively in bat colony removal!
Mole Control - although Home Depot does sell mole traps, mole control work is very complex. I myself never mastered it, but many wildlife operators have.
Dangerous animal - if a raccoon is stuck in the house, or you are unable to approach a snake that you can't identify, or are at some potential risk due to wildlife, then don't risk your safety.
Any rat or mouse control - rat and mouse jobs are extremely complex! These rodents can get into the building through the plumbing, or dozens of different parts of the architecture. The job will NEVER be solved unless all points of entry are sealed shut. Setting a few rat or mouse traps is like a band-aid on a severed limb. And never, ever use poison! It will only make the problem worse.
Bird control - just not easy, no way a beginner is going to solve a bird infestation problem.
Biohazard cleanup - unless you're trained and have the proper equipment, don't clean wild animal waste!
There are many other wildlife scenarios that only a professional should address. But in short, unless you truly understand the animals and the situation, and almost everyone I know in my personal life does not, you should not attempt do-it-yourself wildlife removal, not any more than do-it-yourself dentistry. It truly is highly specialized work. I know I'm going to continue to go to houses in which a person has tried to solve the problem themselves, and only made things worse, but I hope here to educate readers about the field of nuisance wildlife removal.
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