If you’re like most people, you probably never pictured yourself being a landlord or thought about the sticky problems of having tenants who might not meet their obligations. And, now, all of a sudden you are that person, trying to figure out how to evict a tenant. What’s worse, you can’t even talk with your tenant about eviction. Yep, the language barrier is a tad more challenging when you’re dealing with non-paying tenants who happen to be raccoons, squirrels, woodchucks, or any of their furry relations. They just won’t “get” any of your explanations or expectations. No problem! If you want to bridge the language gap so you can effectively, safely, and humanely resolve your sudden and unexpected landlord-tenant predicament, you’ve found precisely the info you need.
What do you know about these tenants?
Maybe you’ve actually seen your problem tenants and know exactly who you’re dealing with. If not, it’s in your best interest to figure out a few things about them before proceeding. If you have not seen them, but have heard suspicious noises, a little investigation is in order. When do you hear noises? If you hear activity on and off throughout the night between dusk and dawn, you’re probably dealing with a raccoon, flying squirrel, or maybe an opossum (people don’t often hear bats). If you hear activity during the day, it’s most likely tree squirrels. Try to identify where they’re getting in and sprinkle a patch of flour there to capture some paw prints you can then compare with pictures online or in a field guide to see which species is living with you. If you’re interested in technology, one sure way to confirm the species is to set up a trail camera near the entry point. Leave it for a day or two and review the footage to discover who your tenant is. Knowing the species is key for timing and other aspects of the eviction process.
When and how do you start the eviction process?
As with most things, timing is everything. You definitely don’t want the headaches (not to mention heartache) that an evicted mom may create in trying to get back in to reach her young. So, patience will serve you well. Follow the guidelines from your local wildlife rehabilitator for when the species you’re dealing with may have young. Typically, March through August raccoons, skunks, woodchucks, and others may have young. Squirrels have young from January through April and again from August through September. These are broad swaths of time, but any particular litter of young you may be dealing with will mature and leave on their own within about 10-12 weeks or so. Unless their presence is creating a real safety or health issue for you or your pets, it’s usually smart to skip the eviction notice and wait it out. Once they move along, make the space inaccessible to future tenants—more on that later.
What if you need them out by, say, yesterday?
No matter how kind-hearted you are, there are some times (like when there is a fire hazard) when unwelcome wildlife have to be evicted before they’re finished raising their family. In those rare instances, though, you still need to get things right, or you’ll create unnecessary problems all around. One option is to hire a professional service to take care of the eviction process for you. Here are tips for finding an ethical and effective wildlife control service. They’ll be able to ensure moms and babies are not permanently separated as a result of the eviction process.
Tips for evicting them yourself
If you’re more the adventurous DIY type, here’s your roadmap to the results you want. Harassment sounds like a bad thing, but for encouraging wildlife to move out of wherever they’re unwelcome, humane harassment is actually just what’s needed. Be strategic in where you place the offending sights, sounds, and smells to harass them—and use the tactics in combination. In short order, your message will be understood, despite the language barrier! Your goal is to make the space feel less safe and cozy—never to hurt them.
- Sights: Remove vegetation from around a den or burrow entrance under a porch, deck, or foundation; tie shiny foil balloons or iridescent strips of foil near the entrance; shine bright lights into such a den, or into an attic where animals are nesting.
- Sounds: Play loud music on a battery-operated radio, placed near the den or nest.
- Smells: Place vinegar-soaked rags or urine soaked cat litter in the attic if that is where the animals are nesting or in the den entrance. You can also roll vinegar-soaked tennis balls in the attic.
NOTE: Despite its online popularity, never use ammonia to deter wildlife. Ammonia is toxic to humans and animals when inhaled, corrosive to skin and mucous membranes and can lead to serious chemical burns. It is especially dangerous when used in a home with children or in a space that contains immobile baby animals, neither of whom may be able to move away from the vapors. Moth balls are equally dangerous and should never be used as a deterrent.
While launching offensive sensory tactics, it’s imperative that you be considerate. This means you must keep kids and pets (and yourself) away from the entrance. Mom needs a fair chance to venture out to find a new den site or to create another nest in a safe and suitable place. Then, she needs time to make repeated trips to retrieve her young. This may take a number of hours—if weather is especially bad it may take several days. It can sometimes take a week or more for groundhogs.
Confirm vacancy after eviction
Before closing up an entry point, you must confirm the area inside is completely vacant. For chimneys, it’s usually best to hire a professional to confirm it is clear from top to bottom. There’s a chance it could be chimney swifts, which are legally protected and cannot be disturbed. Once it is confirmed that the chimney isn’t being occupied, immediately install a chimney cap.
For other entry points into the home being used by animals like raccoons and squirrels, you can confirm use by lightly securing a piece of cardboard or a single sheet of newspaper over the hole with duct tape. If the cardboard or paper is undisturbed for at least 48 hours in clear weather, it is typically safe to assume the area is clear. If the area is still being occupied, animals will be able to chew through the temporary material to escape or to access their young.
For woodchucks burrowing under a porch or shed, stuff the entry point with newspaper. If it remains undisturbed (neither pushed in or out) for at least 48 hours in clear weather, then it is safe to assume the groundhog has moved on.
Posting that permanent “no vacancy” sign
Once you’re sure everyone is safely out using one of the techniques above on every open entry point, immediately take care of closing them off so others don’t follow. For small entrances, plug the opening with copper scrub pads or Stuf-fit. For larger holes, use heavy wire mesh (16-gauge), sheet metal, metal flashing, or replace the original materials. For chimneys that attract wildlife for winter shelter or denning, have a commercially made chimney cap installed once you are certain all animals are safely out.
The eviction process can be challenging, but with a little thought and consideration, you can be the person who gets it right—for you and your unintended tenant. Once you’ve addressed your current conflict, effectively prevent future misunderstandings with wildlife who might seek shelter in or under your home by investing in a little prevention.