How To Get Rid of Uninvited, Annoying Houseguests
By Bill Primavera
The Home Guru
During the many years we’ve lived in our home, my family has hosted a number of houseguests who were uninvited, annoying, and sometimes ugly, if not downright stinky.
Naïve as I was when I moved from the city to the country, I thought these critters just hung out in the woods, but no, a number of pests and wildlife has on occasion checked into my home, sometimes in the attic (squirrels), basement (a feral cat) or crawl space (skunks). Another visitor, a raccoon, perhaps a more outdoorsy type, took a dive into my pool and couldn’t get out. Sharing space with nuisance wildlife can be scary for a city guy like me.
“People who move here from the city are surprised to find pests and wildlife invading their homes,” says Tom Horton, a nuisance wildlife control operator and owner of Quality Pro Pest & Wildlife Services, serving all of Westchester and Putnam Counties. “Some of them have told me they preferred the city where all they had to worry about were roaches!”
I learned of Horton through recent news reports about coyote attacks in lower Westchester which involved two children and a poodle, the latter being hurt in one attack and killed in the second, possibly by the same coyote. Horton was successful in trapping and returning to the wild first the mother and her eight cubs, then the male who was probably the attacker.
I always thought that ridding one’s house of nuisance wildlife was more an extermination job, but with Horton, who says he loves animals, it’s more a job of rescue and rehabilitation. His focus is to trap, rehabilitate and release animals back into the wild. While that might be the case with squirrels, skunks and raccoons, it’s a different story with rodents. But even there he is humane. “I don’t believe in using poison,” he said. “Other operators will tell you that when the mice consume poison, they escape the house seeking water, but that is not the case. They actually remain in the house to die, suffering in agony for four or five days. I think the more humane way to is to set snap traps where it’s over in an instant.”
Horton said that calls for his work have increased significantly in recent years. But doesn’t increased development make our area less attractive to wildlife, I asked? Not at all, he responded. “We have a greater population of former city residents who don’t know how to handle wildlife problems on their own, as they do in the upper counties.”
When asked what to do if a black bear or coyote is spotted in one’s neighborhood, Horton advised that it’s best to call the police who will respond according to the situation at hand and the town involved. Some towns have their own wildlife control officers, while others suggest calling a professional like Horton, and depending on the animal and threat of danger, the Department of Environmental Conservation might be involved.
Horton knows a lot about the nature of different kinds of animals. When I related my experience of having a family of skunks living in my crawl space, I asked why it sometimes sounded as though there were violent scuffles going on, as though it was mating time or the male was protecting his turf. But, no, Horton described the skunk as a weasel with a tendency to horse around with other family members.
Why do animals want to come live in our homes in the first place, I asked? “Animals seek comfort just like we do,” Horton responded. “If a rodent is scurrying along a foundation and feels warmth escaping from a crack in the wall, he’ll be drawn to it and invite himself in.”
Horton suggested that homeowners seek a nuisance wildlife operator who actually gets to the source of the problem, being willing to climb ladders and get into crawl spaces, rather than just setting cages outside on the ground, then coming back, charging a fee when something is caught. “How would you know that the offending pest is the animal caught that way?” he reasoned.
“Exclusion is a big part of our service,” Horton said. “Rather than just setting a trap and removing the offending pests, I suggest securing the points of entry. Most times this is inexpensive, such as when patching a hole, but sometimes it can be a more involved process.”
To become a nuisance wildlife control operator, New York State requires only an eight-hour trapper course, followed by a test. “The best way to learn this business is working as an apprentice in an established company before setting out on your own,” Horton said, which is how he learned his craft.
The majority of his calls for help, especially at this time of year, are for rodents and squirrels, but he has also retrieved some exotic animals, including an African serval and a wallabee, both of which had wandered off the estate and private nature preserve of investor Michael Steinhardt in Bedford.
For a man whose job is to rid animals from homes, his family includes four dogs, one of which is a Jack Russell found just roaming the streets whose owner could not be found, a feral kitten discovered living in a wood pile, and three hamsters that had been left on a park bench.
If you find yourself hosting an unwanted guest, exotic or not, Jim Horton can be reached at 914-469-3855. His website, where you can learn the habits of most nuisance animals, is: www.qualitypropest.com.
Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (PrimaveraHomes.com), affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner (PrimaveraPR.com). Anyone seeking advice or considering selling or buying a home can reach him directly at 914-522-2076.