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If you have an opening to get into the space underneath your shed, porch or decking, you’re essentially opening the door to any wild animals would naturally live “in the wild," you can understand why they'd choose the space beneath these outbuildings and structures. Rock piles, caves, tree hollows … Those cold, dark and unvisited areas offer the same things that these “wild” spaces offer. In fact, they offer much more. They give more protection than most wild spots, and there's plenty more food around too. And the animal has access to all the fresh and running water they need. Where there are humans there is warmth, food, shelter and water, and those are all things wild animals need in order to survive.
The most common animals found under a shed or porch are:
Feral or stray cats
You may also find snakes, lizards, and more, depending on the area in which you live. Some of these animals are obviously more aggressive than others, but they ALL carry various threats of disease, which should encourage you to keep a wide berth, regardless of how cute they look.
Animals under the porch or deck - Before you get them out
Step one: Make sure that no wild animals are actually under your porch, decking, stairs or shed. If you attempt any sealing or blocking while the animal is still under there, it will die under there, or wreak more havoc just trying to get itself back out again. If it dies under there, you will have a nasty smell on your hands before long, and you may also experience flies, maggots, and other wild critters, such as rats and mice, who are attracted by the stench of rotting flesh. Opossums are actually quite well known for eating virtually anything, including meat that has gone bad. Some wild animal removal experts suggest using bad meat in a trap set for opossums, as it tens to have really good results.
Check the space for a nest. One wild animal is actually usually a mother with a nest of babies, and if she's living underneath your shed or porch, her babies will be living beneath there too.
How will you know if there are wild animals living under your porch or shed? You can use a number of different methods to find out. Some people will stuff the holes that are visibly used by the creature to gain access will crunched-up newspaper of similar. Within two or three days in the summer, the material will be moved if animals are accessing the space. You can put wooden twigs or sticks in the way too, if you don’t fancy littering your back or front yard with paper. If the sticks haven’t been moved after a few days, there's a good chance there are no wild animals living beneath there.
If you are attempting to remove a wild animal from under the porch or deck in the winter, the story is a little different. Many wild animals are known to sleep for many days, weeks, and sometimes months, in the case of those that that hibernate. You may need to wait for many months before you can be sure that the animal has gone, and it is only then that you can go ahead and seal up the holes that are allowing the creature to get in.
We would recommend that you give your home a thorough inspection before the winter comes. By doing this, if you find any problems, you can solve them before the cold weather hits. Once it does removing these wild critters is going to get a whole lot harder.
Animals under the porch or deck - Getting them out
Getting the animals out will take time, patience, and knowledge. You will need to adapt your removal method for eh exact animal you have. If it’s rat and mice that are causing you problems, snap traps designed for these rodents are your best action. Do not use poison, and don't resort to deterrents and repellents, particularly expensive ones. They are known to NOT work more often than they do work.
Exclusion or one-way devices and traps can be used for animals such as raccoons, squirrels, opossums, skunks and more. These allow the animal to get out, but then won't allow them to get back in again. If the rest of the structure is fully sealed, with the exception of that one hole, the animal will have no choice but to leave eventually, and when it does, it’ll be out for good.
If you have youngsters under the shed or porch, you may want to wait until the mother has gone out for food, use your gloved hands or a snare pole to trap the little creatures, place them in a trap and use them as the bait to capture the mother. They can then be dealt with as a family, although this will depend on where you live. The laws for animal removal and release will differ from state to state.
Animals under the porch - After they’ve gone
Only when you are sure that all animals have been removed from the space you are about to seal can you then go ahead and seal it up. In fact, you don't need to seal it up. You could open it up instead. Animals like dark, enclosed spaces, so by clearing the area out entirely and allowing it to be cold, unprotected and drafty, there will be less to bring the critter closer.
If you are going to seal up the area instead, there are two further options. You can either dig or not dig, but one will require the use of something heavy, such as concrete blocks or paving slabs, and the other method will require the use of hardware cloth or chicken wire. If you have a large wild animal problem, with your home coming under attack quicker than you can deal with them all, you might want to consider putting both methods in play. You will then have double the protection.
The digging method will require hardware cloth and digging a tench. The idea is to dig a trench around the entirety of the building, creating a fence of hardware cloth that sits in an “L” shape. The longer, vertical section of the hardware cloth will protect the bottom and sides of the structure, and the horizontal section of the "L" shape will be placed in the trench, protecting the building from below. You must remember that many of these wild creatures are keen diggers, and it won't take them long to break into a building or structure once they've started burrowing below. This wire protection below the surface will help to add a layer of protection you probably hadn't thought to add before. The same theory and design can be adapted for almost anywhere, and proves especially useful when trying to protect chicken coops and similar spots from wild animal attack.
If you would rather not dig a trench around your structure, you can use a no-dig approach, and this is the one that uses concrete blocks to form a barrier. You will still need to use some hardware cloth, and it is universally recognized that the galvanized stuff is best. This should be used to cover any holes, with the concrete blocks placed in such a way that it makes it impossible for animals to get inside. You need to consider that rats CAN chew through concrete, although it will take them some time. The area must be monitored regularly to check for further damage, or movement of your modifications. If you notice movement or damage, the animals are already working on it, so you'll need to ‘up’ your protection game.
For more information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How To Guide: Who should I hire? - What questions to ask, to look for, who NOT to hire.
How To Guide: do it yourself! - Advice on saving money by doing wildlife removal yourself.
Guide: How much does wildlife removal cost? - Analysis of wildlife control prices.
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