Citters in wall keeping me up at night...ughh!

mkroopyFebruary 24, 2011

Not sure which category to post this in...I normally only check this one so I will start here...if I should move it, please tell me where.

OK I have an old Victorian (1870s) about an hour north of NYC. Been real cold and snowy lately, and man am I hearing all sorts of critters in my walls, mainly on the main level of the house, in the wall behind my TV. Been thru this before at all my other places, but not this bad. Based on the noises I can tell for sure they are not mice. Perhaps squirrels or chipmonks I would guess.

This week in the mornings it was unbelievably loud...and I also heard "squeeking" which makes me think I have a litter in there...yikes!

What are my options? At a carriage house I rented for a while after my divorce before buying this place, I had the same thing and the landlord said they were red squirrels and he trapped a bunch of them and drove them far away and patched the fascia with wire screens, but they just kept eating new holes...unreal.

I have looked at previous discussions over the years on GardenWeb and have seen a lot of suggestions, but I am pretty much guessing that this is something I am going to have to battle by myself, over the long haul...most people seemed to not suggest or have no luck with pest removal services. Believe me, my house is so old, and there are so many possible "entry points" I could spend thousands trying to close them up, and from what I've seen, they will just eat new openings anyway. I really see no way to totally prevent access to the house.

I guess I just wanted to see if I need to go get a pellet gun and rat traps and paint my face like Rambo...or are there other options...

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Have you looked on the home disasters forum too?

I just waged war with the mice in my kitchen. It was a snowy day and I didn't want to go out, so I rummaged around in my basement to see what I could come up with. I ended up with my arsenal:

fiberglass mesh painter's tape
a 12" x 30' roll of aluminum gutter flashing, partly used
a tub of leftover tile grout (this is embarrassing bc I'm not a fan of premixed grout but it's a long story, so never mind)
a tube of leftover caulk
a roll of duct tape
steel wool

I went to town in my kitchen using some or all of these items in combination. I can say with confidence that the grout and gutter flashing have not been breached. I'm not so sure about the fiberglass tape and caulk--I'm waiting for another snowy day to pull everything out of the cabinets again and do a progress check.

It was a lot of fun. I felt like I was channeling Bill Murray in Caddyshack. I had everything pulled out of my kitchen cabinets, stuffing steel wool into cracks and caulking in place, stuffing grout around plumbing thru-holes (I may hate myself for that someday). It did not take as long as I expected, and the points of entry were easy to find. So I'd say, as soon as the current residents have moved out, give yourself a couple of hours and see where you get. You may be pleasantly surprised. The gutter flashing is very easy to cut and fold into shape--I really liked working with it. I mostly taped it in place with duct tape but I could easily see using small nails, tacks, or even a staple gun depending on the situation.

My mom had a skunk in her motor home while she was on the road from Alaska to Montana. Fortunately it never got upset, and it crawled out at some rest stop and moved on. But it was a close call--would have destroyed the value of their home if it had sprayed inside the walls. She was a real nervous wreck for a few weeks.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 3:56PM
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Try seeing if anyone you know has a Have A Heart trap. Bait it with food and put it near where you think the rodent is getting in and out. Check it a couple of times a day. Once you trap the rodent try finding it a nice new home in a park someplace.You may have to repeat setting the trap several times to get everyone out.
If you get no bites on the Have a Heart trap try putting out some mouse/rat traps. Bait them with chocolate and peanut butter. Make sure they are perpendicular to the wall. Rodents use thier whiskers to feel their way around so having the trap so the business part of it in up against the wall is important.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 4:26PM
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Are they in your living space or just in the walls?

At this season it will be easier to just make sure they're not inside with you.

Warmer weather will encourage them to go outside (unless you've got rats, which like it inside) and sealing things up with the animals outside is less of a problem than actually trapping them inside wall cavities. They may die and stink up the place for a while if trapped in closed cavities. This is particualrly important if you think you have live litters - they may be too small to leave yet, but die and smell if abandonned.

Are you seeing any evidence of poop in the attic or cellar? That will help you identify what kind of creature it is. Believe it or not, there are books (field guides) on poop identification.

I live an hour or so north of you, so I have the same possibilities as you: chipmunks, red squirrels, white- footed mice and deer mice, house mice and rats. I don't like rats, I live trap 'em (peanut butter in a H-A-H) and make my Dh take them to the dump. My cats adore patrolling for the unwary house mouse or chipmunk - with nine of them (cats that is) loose in the house it is mad, scrawling, scramble if prey is found. I've found that red squirrels never get in my living space, and leave when warmer weather arrives. Then I can patrol the outside and make some additional attempts to find and close the entrance point(s) over the summer. It helps if you don't have too many trees near your house where they can spend the summer before returning like reverse snow-birds.

The biggest annoyance and health risk are deer and white-footed mice. They can be vectors of Hanta Virus, so cleaning up after them has some risk. But they normally live outdoors, so they will depart in a few weeks. Then you can try sealing up better over the summer to exclude them.

The squeaks are probably just males brawling with each other over females, but you know where that leads ......

Try not to worry too much - they mean you no harm.

Good luck.


BTW, In NYS there DEC laws against relocating wildlife (even rats, I know), so hauling squirrels, woodchucks, etc. away from where they are is illegal, as well as being inhumane. Usually loss of territory is a death sentence; it's only "advantage" - for the humans involved, at least - is that they aren't confronted with the reality of their choices. Only licensed wildlife trappers may legally do so - and they charge a lot of money and I never am sure if they really do it. Except for rats, I rely on changing conditions in my control (sealing, fencing, mowing, trimming, etc.) to reduce my vexation and exposure.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 12:29AM
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If there is a litter in the wall, you do not want to trap the mother at this point. A dead litter of pretty much anything will create a stench that will make you yearn for the noise back.

Mice can make a lot of noise, but if red squirrels are common around your house and the sound is a chattering very similar to that of chickadees, red squirrels are a very real possibility. This is just about exactly the time of year they would have young, also.

Many critters are very difficult to trap - red squirrels are nearly impossible. Your best bet would be a professional pest remover.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 5:41AM
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Well the Have-a-Heart trap idea won't work...because checking it a couple times a day is not possible..most mornings I am out by 6am getting my kids off to school, and don't get home till well after 7 or 8 at night. Plus I have done some online reading and from what I can tell, unless you drive them 10+ miles away they can and will find there way back. Sorry, I am not a cruel person, but I just don't have time or motivation to be doing that. Plus, I see that it might be illegal too.

liriodendron - they are in my walls. If I ever see a squirrel in my living space I would completely flip out, the occasional mouse I am used to, but not a damn squirrel. I'd sleep with a pellet gun under my pillow.

I have not seen any poop in my cellar (have not really looked too hard though), and I have not been up to the attic since the home inspection last summer so I have no clue what's going on up there.

"The squeaks are probably just males brawling with each other over females"....oh sh*t - sounds like I have a pick-up bar in my wall!!! Funny, I don't hear any club music in! I can picture the little squirrels with their shirts open down to there stomachs and sun glasses on, using their pick-up lines ("hey baby wanna come to my part of the wall and check out my nuts?")

And a cat is not an option, I've heard just their presence can help keep critters out...son is allergic to them and he is with me 50% of the time.

Looks like I will try to trap them outside with a rat trap, and then in the summer see if I can patch up some of the easy access points and hope it's not as bad next year.

Thanks for all the advice.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 10:30AM
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***Try seeing if anyone you know has a Have A Heart trap. Bait it with food and put it near where you think the rodent is getting in and out. Check it a couple of times a day. Once you trap the rodent try finding it a nice new home in a park someplace.***

BEWARE, BEWARE, BEWARE of doing this right now. If there is a litter in there and you trap the mother, the litter will die and your house will smell like decomposing squirrels until you can get in there, find the litter of decomposing squirrels, remove it, and clean the area thoroughly. And then it will still smell of decomposing squirrels, although less strongly, for a while more.

So save the Have-a-Heart approach until this year's breeding season is over and the babies are grown up and/or gone.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 11:11AM
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A few decomposing dead baby squirrels would pale in comparison to my 10 year old son's me.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 11:33AM
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