Tad Bassett of Triangle Wildlife Removal & Pest Control, Inc., tells us what we should know about wildlife & pest control and how problems can be detected and sometimes prevented.
Tad Bassett holds a B.S. in Fisheries and Wildlife Management from North Carolina State University and has also worked with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. He is also a member of the National Wildlife Control Operators Association. His company, Triangle Wildlife Removal & Pest Control, has been in business since 1990 and is licensed for wildlife removal by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the Department of Agriculture for pest control services.
Today he tells us all that we should know about animals and other pests that may cause us damage and health problems, what we can do to minimize these risks, and when we may require the services of a professional. Tad has taken much of his time for this interview but he wanted to be sure we knew everything important about wildlife on our property.
Tad, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. With the summer pest season drawing to a close, colder weather presents a different set of seasonal pest problems and I am sure our readers will want to hear what advice you have to offer them. Just to get things started, can you tell us which types of pests are common in our area?
Yes, and unfortunately there are several of these present in the Triangle. The most common ones are squirrels, bats, birds, opossums, raccoons, flying squirrels, mice, rats and snakes. Some insects can also be a problem as well including bald face hornets, European hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps.
This is a long list of potential damaging animals and insects. Can you break these down a bit by season for us?
Well, most of these animals are dealt with on a seasonal basis, not all year long. For example it is too hot in houses for flying squirrels in summer; they are winter time invaders instead. Snakes issues are more common in the spring and summer and the same with wasps and hornets. Gray squirrels are both spring and fall issues because they have two litters a year and raccoons and opossums are also spring and summer issues because of their birthing seasons with steady intrusions all year long.
So when do these pests present the most property damage potential for homeowners?
Most of the potential for these issues is in the spring due to birthing seasons. Gray squirrels generally start in late January and February then in again in July and August. This is when they typically enter attics. Raccoons and possums are entering attics and crawlspaces for the same reason but normally only have one litter per year. European starlings (invasive birds) typically get in attics, dryer vents, and bathroom vents during the spring while stinging insects are more prevalent in summer after their nests have enlarged. Snakes are more prevalent in the summer months but have some activity in spring and fall.
We know that bats are a big issue here and that there are some restrictions on their removal. What can you tell us about this?
Bats are a frequent complaint in spring, summer and fall. However there is a state blackout period during the months of May, June and July where they cannot be removed due to birthing season. As you can imagine, August and September are very busy with the exclusions where people have been waiting for 3 months for the removal.
Many of us probably did not realize that. Why is there ablackout period for bat removal?
Very good question. The blackout period for bats is for several reasons. The main one is that premature removal will result in the death of the juvenile bats since they can’t fly. The other reason is that if the juveniles can’t fly out of their roosts, they may wind up in the house’s living quarters. This could mean post exposure rabies shots which may cost as much as $10,000.00 per person. Also, juveniles may end up dying in the attic or walls and create foul odors and require reconstruction to remedy the situation.
So what steps might homeowners take to reduce the risk of having property damage?
For starters it is difficult to anticipate where animals may try to enter structures during their active months. One way to reduce this risk is to make sure trees and shrubs are not touching exterior walls or roofs. Also make sure visible rot or openings in structures is attended to promptly. Foundation vents, a/c lines and crawlspace entrances are also entry points for some pests. For roofs this would include gable vents, soffit vents and returns. Also be aware of the condition of frieze boards, ridge vents and gutter lines along the fascia boards.
Any other advice on this issue?
Homeowners should tend to their landscaping needs and keep things well-manicured and remember that things like brush piles and firewood will attract certain animals which in turn can become a food source for other animals. Do not store things like bird seed in basements or crawlspaces, as this is an open invitation for pests to invade your home.
Are there any early signs that there may already be a problem?
Homeowners should routinely look for droppings and food caches in attics, crawlspaces, and other storage areas. Also be aware of any dead animal odors, and abnormal noises such as the sounds of running, scratching, shuffling which you need to listen for carefully.
What are some things we might look for outside of the house?
Routinely check for signs of animal activity on roofs, droppings on outside walls, and even small piles of acorns. Look for bat droppings under gable vents, bird droppings on exterior walls around bathroom and stove vents, and any gnawed or torn areas along shingles and rooflines.
Tad, this is all very helpful and if we follow your advice we should be able to reduce the risk of pest intrusions and damage. Speaking of damage what do you commonly see in our area?
This is very important and we need to discuss. Most of the damage we see is along roofs and gutters. Animals may enter where there is already a compromised area. Torn foundation vents, openings around HVAC units (favorite for opossums), builder gaps (under shingles at roofline), soffit return gaps and ridge vents are common entry points. Pests are opportunistic and will exploit weak or rotten areas. There is also damage from nesting and droppings in attics. Insulation sometimes will need to be replaced.
Why should a homeowner not attempt to deal with a pest that has gotten into their home or other structures by themselves?
While some animals can be handled simply by "scare tactics" such as loud noise, holographic devices, and bird bangers. Habitat modification can take care of many problems (fixing rotten areas, general maintenance and upkeep). However most of the time these pests have to be removed by trapping or exclusion.
And there are several reasons why a homeowner may need to call a professional. The diseases associated with wildlife can be deadly. Rabies, histoplasmosis and roundworm are most serious with bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes and feral cats. Histoplasmosis is associated with bird and bat droppings and can actually affect the lungs when these are present. Roundworm is a deadly virus generally found in raccoon feces.
Clean up should be done with extreme caution and is best performed by a trained professional to reduce rather than spread contamination.
In addition to disease and contamination, what else should homeowners be made aware of?
Injuries can be a big factor when dealing with pests yourself, especially for pests in your attic and ladder related injuries are very common. Animal bites are also common, along with injuries from stinging insects.
What about legal restrictions that a homeowner should be aware of?
Most homeowners may not know that while you do not need a permit to trap an animal on your property, you do need a permit from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission to remove a trapped animal from your property and a valid permit is necessary for any type of transfer. You also should know that currently in NC no animal that can transmit rabies to another animal can be relocated, but that this will be allowed starting in January 2020.
Tad, can you tell us what training and certifications are professional wildlife removal experts require to have?
Animal damage control agents in North Carolina are required to be licensed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. And renewal is every three years. Any type of structural pest control and traditional pest control also requires a structural pest control license with a minimum of $100,000.00 liability insurance. However liability insurance is not required for ADC agents.
What proofs of insurance should a homeowner ask for?
You do need to inquire about the agent’s insurance and if they do not have insurance, you do not want them doing work on your property. A general liability policy, worker's comp policy and auto liability policy should be in effect and a good rule of thumb would be $3,000,000.00 General Liability, $1,000,000.00 worker's comp and $1,000,000.00 auto policy coverages. This will insure that you will not be liable for any accidents or damage that occurs on your property if the hired professional has a mishap.
Can you describe some of the more common wildlife removals that you are involved in.
We run into a lot of issues with gray squirrels as they have litters in the spring and fall. The only time squirrels are not removed is during the month of June and part of July. The other animals are seasonal with bats in the spring, summer and fall, birds in spring and summer and flying squirrels during the colder months. Opossums from crawlspaces are removed year round, raccoons are removed in the spring and summer, and mice and rats are removed all year long.
Tad, can you tell us what the removal of some of these pests involves?
This depends on the type of animal. Most mammals except for bats are trapped. Typically a trap is placed over the entrance and when an animal enters or exits the structure it is caught in this manner. Bats are what we call “excluded” from a home. A one-way door is set over the main entrance and after a bat exits to feed in the evening hours, it is later unable to re-enter the structure. This is prohibited during the months of May, June and July because of the maternal colonies because a one-way door then will ensure the death of the juveniles and this will create other serious problems for the homeowner as we previously discussed. Birds are typically removed by hand and this commonly includes European Starlings in bathroom and dryer vents. Simple removal by hand or flushing them from the area and sealing the entrance is the normal practice.
What happens to the wildlife that you remove?
Well most wildlife that needs to be physically removed is typically relocated many miles from where it was trapped except for the “rabies vectors” we also earlier talked about and these need to be euthanized under current regulation. The typical animals that are trapped and removed are squirrels, flying squirrels, opossums, groundhogs and raccoons, with snakes and other reptiles and amphibians generally removed by hand.
Do you ever leave live traps?
Good question. Live traps are actually the "go to" method for removal and this may involve setting a live trap over the entrance or exit hole. Setting live traps gives some latitude on removal but these traps still need to be checked every 24 hours. If a nursing female is caught, then there are a couple of options that are available. One is to just remove it from the trap, let it raise the young and then remove all of them later. But if a lethal trap is set for an animal, you have no choice but to try to locate and remove juveniles if there are any. Sometimes this process may involve can require extensive work and repairs.
What kind of repairs are we talking about?
The type of work that may be required for exclusion may include but not be limited to repair or replacement of ridge vents, drip edge, soffits, fascia boards, gutter line sealing, gable vents, insulation and sheetrock, rot, foundation vents, vapor barriers, trim, dormers and any other areas where an animal may enter, exit or live in a structure.
Will homeowner’s insurance cover the cost of repairs?
Another excellent question. We have noticed that homeowner's insurance is getting more stringent on claims. Most insurance companies will not pay for any type of rodent (vermin) removal or repairs. They will sometimes pay for raccoon and bat removal and/or mitigation since these are rabies vectors and certain hazards can be attributed to the removal and cleanup of these species. It might not be a bad idea to check with your insurance company to see what they might cover before you actually experience a problem.
Are there some things that you do after wildlife removal to help minimize the risk that the same problems to not occur again?
Typically when we perform removal services we will do an inspection of the entire structure to identify any other active entrances and potential entry points. We will then give a plan to fix other possible entry points. It is up to the homeowner if they want other areas sealed for minimal exposure. We do guarantee any areas sealed including the entire structure with proper exclusion techniques that we perform.
Tad, thank you again for taking the time to speak with us today and we hope that our readers are now well-informed about the pests that can damage their homes and put them and their families at risk as well.