Whether they slither, creep, crawl or fly, uninvited members of the animal kingdom aren’t just annoying, they can cause a lot of damage to your home. Squirrels, rats and mice will chew through wires, causing electrical issues. Raccoons and opossums can tear holes in the roof and chimney caps. Snakes are just icky, and some are poisonous.
Some wild animals will attack if you try to scoot them back into the wild on your own, and their droppings can cause serious illnesses. But overreacting and dialing for help in a blind panic could hurt you, too.
“All too often, homeowners confronted by an unwanted animal and are so scared they call the first company they find,” says Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “There’s no shame in being startled by the sight of feral eyes, bared teeth or slimy scales, but do your best to swallow your fear and take the time to find the right company to tame your furry, feathered or scaled guest.”
Watch out for the costs
One Angie’s List member didn’t heed that advice and dialed in a panic when she discovered a raccoon had moved its family into their chimney. She called the first company she found in the phone book. The technician said it would cost $1,185 to get rid of the animal, which he would trap on the roof and come back that night to collect. The technician advised the member, who was pregnant, to treat the chimney for parasites. That would cost $600. For another $5,500, he would seal holes in her deck that were serving as entry and egress for several squirrels.
The member was so worried about the raccoon and the parasites she ignored her concern over the high cost, signed a contract and wrote out a check. But after the trap was set, she checked Angie’s List and called a highly-rated company for advice.
She learned that the raccoon would probably die of heat exhaustion in the Texas sun while waiting for the retrieval and that the parasite treatment was unnecessary – or could be done herself with a $6 flea bomb. The second company offered to humanely lure out the raccoon family and relocate it to the woods for $260. They also would coax out the squirrels and seal the deck holes for less than $600.
She cancelled her original contract, got back her check and hired the second company, saving more than $6,000.
Angie’s List, the nation’s leader in consumer reviews , has collected animal control and handyman service reports for more than 15 years.
“We examined about 600 recent animal removal reports and saw a surprising number of people who thought they had a problem with one kind of critter were actually sharing living quarters with multiple animals, and sometimes multiple species,” Hicks said. “One man who has a respiratory illness had about 100 bats living in an attic vent. A Cincinnati member had five skunks and an opossum living under her porch. The spring thaw brought out two snakes that had hibernated in a Washington DC basement.”
More than 43 percent of the homeowners who reported on their animal control experience had their animal removal expert also repair damage and seal up their homes.
“Some animal control experts focus only on getting the animals out of your house. Others offer advice on keeping them out, and many will also cap your chimney, close holes and perform other work designed to keep your home free of all the animals except the ones you invite in,” Hicks said. “If you want full-service, be sure to look for companies that provide it so you’re not disappointed.”
Concerns over humane animal treatment and relocation
Animal control companies often limit the kind of critter they’ll corral, as well as the services they offer. Some offer humane trapping and relocation, while others kill the creatures. Costs vary according to how many animals are ultimately removed and how often the expert has to come back to the home. Some companies will reduce costs if the homeowner checks the traps, instead of leaving that to the pros.
“If you have strong feelings about the future of the animal you’re trying to get rid of, you should ask upfront about disposal or relocation policies,” Hicks said. “Many companies offer eco-friendly options instead of poisons and will take extra care so they don’t put household pets or young children in danger.”
One homeowner reported that her animal control expert trapped the skunk she’d found under her front porch but then killed it in her front yard while she unhappily watched. Another expert lured a raccoon out with rap music.
Over the past two years, Angie’s List members in 25 major cities have reported home invasions including squirrels, raccoons and opossums, bats, rats, moles, shrews, snakes and even dead ducks in the chimney. Getting rid of the critters and keeping them out cost the home owners, on average, about $480.
“Squirrels seem to have taken over in most of the cities we reviewed and account for nearly a third of all the reports we’ve collected in the past year,” Hicks said. “We’ve had members battling back packs of squirrels – one member