Raccoons, opossums, skunks, squirrels, coyotes, snakes, pigeons, starlings, beavers, armadillos are all examples of wildlife that may become a problem for humans. Whether they are using our buildings as a source for food, water, or shelter, destroying lawns and shrubs, or attacking our pets, these animals can quickly become an issue that needs swift and immediate attention. The fact that most of the wildlife that come in contact with humans can cause injury or illness (e.g. rabies, histoplasmosis, and salmonella), only qualified people should handle these animals. Peachtree Pest Control has an entire division dedicated to controlling wildlife problems.
Wildlife & Birds
Squirrels – Order Rodentia. The gray squirrel is the most common species found in the Southeast United States. It inhabits both rural and urban areas. Some color variations appear but most are very similar in appearance. They can be quite numerous in some areas due to the over abundance of food and shelter. In these cases, they can pose quite a nuisance to people by raiding bird feeders, pet food bowls and gnawing on structures to gain entry to live, especially into attics and eaves. Trapping and exclusion repairs are then needed to eliminate the squirrels from these structures.
Tree Squirrels – Tree squirrels are common throughout the United States and can be found in both rural and urban areas. Gray squirrels, fox squirrels and red squirrels are the most common squirrels, but the color variations are numerous even within the same species. Squirrels typically feed on nuts and seeds and can be a serious invader of bird feeders where they tend to rake the unwanted seeds onto the ground looking for the desired sunflower seeds. They make nests of leaves in the forks of tree limbs high in trees but may also make nests in attics and crawlspaces of structures. When they invade these areas, trapping is typically needed to remove the squirrels and then exclusion repairs to keep them from returning are necessary.
Flying Squirrels – Flying squirrels are smaller squirrels than tree squirrels and are very seldom found on the ground. Flying squirrels are named for their ability to “glide” from tree to tree because of the fold of loose skin that runs from the front legs to the back legs on each side of the body which acts as a “sail” when the feet are spread out as they jump from a tree. They feed on nuts, fungi, fruits and bird eggs. They are only active at night. They will invade structures, usually the attic, where they will nest and raise their young. Trapping and exclusion repairs are necessary to remove these animals from structures.
Chipmunks – Order: Rodentia. Chipmunks are closely related to squirrels and can be found in the same areas as squirrels. Keeping to the ground instead of the trees, chipmunks feed on a wide range of food materials such as nuts, berries, bird’s eggs, frogs, insects, worms, and occasionally small animals such as young mice. They possess pouches inside their cheeks which they use to stuff and carry food items to their burrows found in the ground.
Opossums – Opossums are common throughout the Southeastern United States. Adapting to any habitat, they can be found in both rural and urban areas. It is the only marsupial in the states. Marsupials are animals that rear their new born young inside a pouch of the females. When the young is old enough to come out of the pouch, they ride on the backs of their mothers until they grow old enough to keep up with her. Most opossums have gray fur and white faces, although the fur color may vary with different shades of gray. They can become invaders of homes looking for suitable food, water or shelter.
Skunks – Skunks vary in size and markings within the same area. White and black are the colors most closely associated with skunks, but brown and white, gray and white and cream colors can be found. They feed on a wide variety of food items such as worms, insects, lizards, snakes, birds and frogs. They will also feed on human garbage where allowed to do so. They have the ability to “spray” a very foul-smelling liquid from glands in the rear near the tail, which they use to defend themselves from predators. They will typically “warn” of their being bothered by stamping their front feet on the ground. If this doesn’t work, they will turn around and lift the tail as the last chance to “get away”.
Pigeons – Pigeons, often referred to as “rats with wings”, are much maligned by humans. Colors between pigeons are quite variable. In habitats with plenty of food material, their numbers may rise into the hundreds within a single flock. Large numbers of pigeons roosting in the same place night after night will deposit large amounts of droppings (feces) which can be a source for disease causing organisms that may affect humans. Eliminating food and roosting areas is key to controlling these birds.
Raccoons – Genus: Procyon. Raccoons are very recognizable mammals. They have stocky built bodies and a characteristic “mask” across the front of their faces. The color of the fur can be variable from black to gray with some individuals being a more “tawny” color. They feed on a wide variety of food sources and are found in both rural and urban areas. They will nest in structures that have access into the attics, crawlspaces or other areas that are not frequented by humans. The can carry diseases such as rabies and the parvovirus. They should not be handled except by qualified people. Exclusion repairs are necessary to prevent raccoons from getting into structures.
Rats – Family: Rodentia. There are two rat species that are closely associated with man and his dwellings, the Roof Rat and the Norway Rat. Both rats are considered Commensal rodents in that there are no wild populations of these rats, only populations associated with humans. Roof rats are very good climbers and can be found in the upper portions of structures while the Norway rat is an excellent digger and can be found in burrows around and in the lower parts of structures. They both feed on a wide variety of food items, but poor sanitation around dumpsters is a contributing factor to these rats being found near structures. Good sanitation and exclusion repairs are the key to keeping these rodents from entering structures.
Mice – The house mouse is a Commensal rodent and is always found associated with humans and their structures. No wild populations of house mice exist. Mice live in a very small area within a structure, typically moving less than 20 feet from their nesting site to find food and water and are territorial, keeping other mice out of their home range. These small ranges account for why mice can build large numbers in the same structure. They feed on a wide variety of food but grains and seeds are favored. Trapping and baiting is often needed to bring large populations under control. Good sanitation and exclusion is key to keeping mice from getting into structures.
Bats – Order: Chiroptera. Bats are winged mammals that are important predators of small animals, mainly insects. Bats can consume their own weight in insects each night. Being active at night, most people do not encounter bats, except when the bats use buildings to roost in during the day. The feces of bats can cause health concerns in humans, especially when they accumulate in large quantities. Bats can be carriers of rabies so should not be handled except by qualified individuals. Exclusion repairs are necessary to keep bats out of structures.
Starlings – Sturnus vulgaris. The European starling is considered a pest bird due to its ability to reproduce in great numbers and create huge flocks of thousands of individual birds. Starlings are recognized by their iridescent feathers. They tend to gather together on the ground where they methodically look for food items such as seeds, insects and worms. They have been known to rid entire lawns of insects such as fleas, caterpillars and all other insects (except for ants), when gathered in sufficient numbers and left to forage freely. They roost together at night typically in trees where they can create a great deal of noise with their calls and quite a mess with their fecal material. Limbs of trees where they gather night after night will appear white with the accumulation of feces. Deterrents are necessary to keep starlings from an area.
Snakes – Snakes are legless reptiles that are found in rural, urban and even metropolitan habitates. Snakes are divided into venomous and non-venomous groups. Luckily there are many more species of non-venomous snakes than ones that are venomous. They are cold-blooded, meaning their inside body temperature is greatly influenced by the outside air temperature. The warmer their bodies, the more active they become. On cooler days, especially in the morning, snakes tend to “sun” themselves, warming their bodies, aiding in digestion of food items and allowing them to move more quickly when needed. Snakes enter structures usually because they detect the presence of food items, especially rats and mice. Only qualified persons should handle snakes in case they are venomous. Exclusion repairs to prevent entry of these animals will also aid in keeping snakes out of structures.
Honey Bees – Apis mellifera. Honey bees are important pollinators of plants including some crops used for both animal and human consumption. Honey, pollen and bees wax are all products produced by bees that are used by humans. Living in social groups called “colonies” and usually in a void called a “hive”, mature colonies of bees may number in the thousands of individuals. Colonies consist of one “queen” bee, occasionally a few hundred males or “drones” (who do nothing for the colony) and thousands of sterile females who are the “workers” and who provides the food and protection for the entire colony. Africanized honey bees are a strain of honey bees that are highly irritable and quickly agitated into stinging in large numbers. Stings from bees can be highly dangerous if the stings are numerous and/or the person is allergic to insect stings. There have already been deaths attributed to Africanized honey bees in the United States.
Coyotes – Canis latrans. Coyotes are found in rural, urban and metropolitan areas. They typically dig burrows or use the burrows of groundhogs or badgers as dens in which to raise their pups and to rest in during most of the daylight hours. They are mostly active at night but may adapt to daytime activities if necessary. Coyotes take a variety of food items such as mice, rats, birds, squirrels, chipmunks and food left around dumpsters, garbage cans, picnic tables and other such areas. They have been known to breed with domestic dogs, especially in Texas and Oklahoma. Coyotes are more common in areas where the wolf is not present as wolves, being a much larger animal, will readily kill coyotes. Only qualified people should handle coyotes. Trapping is typically needed to remove coyotes from an area where desired.
Beavers - Castor canadensis. Beavers are the largest native rodent in North America. The adults are quite large with some weighing close to 75 pounds. They have large front teeth, both top and bottom, which they use to chew down trees used for food and lodge building. They are considered a pest when they destroy desirable trees and dam up streams which creates flooded areas that may not need to be flooded. Once an area is sufficiently flooded, the beaver will build a “lodge” in the middle which is used as living quarters. Trapping is usually necessary to remove beavers from an unwanted area and should only be done by qualified people.
Red Foxes – Vulpes vulpes. Foxes are found throughout the United States where they feed on live prey such as mice, squirrels, chipmunks and birds as well as other food items such as fruits, berries, insects, lizards and snakes. They vary in size from 10 to 15 pounds as adults. The red fox is the most common fox in North America. They are found in rural and urban areas. They may form small family groups of less than half a dozen adult individuals. Most are solitary. Foxes can be a serious vector of the rabies virus and only qualified individuals should handle or trap foxes when necessary.
Feral Dogs and Cats. When domesticated dogs and cats escape their owners and live on their own without the need to rely on humans for survival, they are considered “feral”. These animals go to great lengths to not interact with humans and can actually pose a threat to people who approach too close or try to catch them. They will reproduce, with their offspring also becoming feral. Large groups of feral animals can become quite destructive to other populations of animals. Feral cats can become quite a serious threat to native bird populations by feeding on bird eggs, baby birds in the nests and catching adult birds. Feral dog packs will kill domestic dogs and cats, poultry and other small animals that they can catch, as well as attack the occasional human. If they attack a small child, they can actually kill them. Trapping by qualified people is the most effective way to control these animals.