With the changing of seasons, homes can make all kinds of strange noises, creaking and groaning as wood and concrete expand and contract. But this time of year can also bring a different kind of noise to your home: the sound of animals preparing for a long winter in your attic. Paying close attention to what you hear can clue you in to whether those noises are just the shifting and settling of a house or an animal control problem.
Raccoons are more substantial than other common attic invaders, especially at this time of year when they’ve been gorging on food to fatten up for the winter, so the noises they make will also be more substantial. Loud thumping, shuffling, heavy footsteps, or scratching noises may be an indication that there are raccoons in your home. Raccoon noises can also vary depending on the time of year. January and February are the peak of mating season, and many homeowners report hearing fighting animals in their attic. While these may be the noises of the mating itself, a female raccoon will chase the male raccoon out of her den once she’s pregnant in order to protect her young, which can cause quite a ruckus. Squeaking or chirping noises, particularly in the spring, may also point to a raccoon den as the babies can often sound like birds.
If these are the kinds of noises you’re hearing in the ceiling, inspect the outside of your house for physical signs of breach. Raccoons are often aggressive in their entry methods and will create a hole where there might not have been one before. Torn shingles or bent roof vents aren’t uncommon. You may also look for something as simple as footprints in the snow on your roof.
Though mice are on the smaller end of the spectrum when it comes to trespassers in your home, they still make plenty of noise. Mice are nocturnal and are most likely to cause light scratching, squeaking, and scurrying sounds in ceilings and interior walls at night. Very few animals will be able to access the void between interior walls, so hearing activity there is a good indication of mice. They have a very small range of travel and are rarely more than 30 feet from their den, so noises will typically occur in the same location. Mice are also rodents which means that their teeth, much like fingernails, are always growing and must be worn down in order to be fully functional. Because of this, mice gnaw on wood, wires, cardboard, or any number of materials that will help to maintain their teeth. This chewing can create a great deal of noise as well.
Because mice are able to squeeze through a space as small as an eraser head, finding the areas where they’re getting into your walls and ceiling may be difficult for the untrained eye. Instead, check for droppings in corners and where the wall meets the floor. These droppings will be pointed at both ends and about the size of a grain of rice. Look for gnawing on the edges of wooden furnishing, boxes with stored material in them (especially food), and cables or wires leading into walls. There may also be grayish-brown smudging along baseboards where oil and dirt on the mice’s fur has rubbed off from repeated travel.
Squirrels are rodents as well, so many of the sounds they cause will be similar to mice, particularly scratching, scurrying, and gnawing. Because they’re larger than mice, these sounds will be louder, but the easiest way to identify squirrels in your attic is the time of day. Squirrels are diurnal, which means they’re most active during the day. If you’re hearing running and jumping above your head in the morning and afternoon, squirrels are probably the culprits.
It can be tricky to spot squirrel entry points from the ground, particularly in the winter when your roof may be covered in snow or ice. They may tear the insect mesh out of a roof vent in order to climb into your attic, and they will also gnaw away at rotting or weakened wood on fascia, trim, or the roof itself. Look for holes about the size of a baseball.
Animal Control Solutions
On top of the damage they cause to property, raccoons, mice, and squirrels are all prone to disease and can spread these illnesses to the people living in the homes where they’ve built their nests. If there are signs of an animal control problem in your attic or other parts of your home, do not wait. Ask for the assistance of a professional nuisance wildlife company like ABC Wildlife. When you make the call, be sure to describe the types of noises you’ve been hearing in detail, and mention any physical indicators you may have seen. These are good tools to help our animal control technician identify what is in your attic and prepare for his or her inspection accordingly. Call us today at (847) 870-7175!
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Vito Brancato is a wildlife specialist and educator with over 15 years of animal and pest management experience. He is a certified Wildlife Control Operator through the National Wildlife Control Operators Association and belongs to the National Pest Management Association and the Illinois Pest Control Association. He is an avid beekeeper and nature enthusiast.
Image courtesy of Conrad Kuiper via Flickr creative commons