Spooky Critter Trouble in Paradise

Three pumpkin jack-o-lanterns outside on groundSummer is now officially over, fall is eerily here, the kids should be back in school and it’s time to send everyone packing before you go batty!  Homeowners in Southern California are often good-natured summertime vacation or party hosts for our beach loving brother’s family, theme park bound cousins and rock concert nephews or nieces. All of us who are hosts, however, have to draw the line when uninvited wildlife moves into the attic or garage or the yard with plans to stay for the fall and winter, and with no reservations or departure date.

Spooky Black BearWe’re talking here about nuisance bears paddling in our foothill home pools or snacking on trash can left-overs, as well as scary coyotes or cougars eyeing our beloved dogs and cats.  Let’s also not forget those grub-loving badgers, who tear up the green on Hole 7 and then hop the fence to munch on our ornamental grasses. If that’s not enough, there are raccoons or skunks that chew up miles of newly installed drought-required drip irrigation lines as the water seeps out before dawn.

Yes, summer to early fall can be a haunting change of season when the wildlife moves into your neighborhood—especially if you’ve left town to run the AC on Marriot or Hilton’s dime and to shower or swim without setting off an alarm at your local water district.  All kinds of pesky animals love your night-time sprinklers spraying or dripping, tasty green grass, vegetable gardens, fruit trees, pet food left outside, bird feeders, overflowing trash barrels, etc.

Bats in MoonlightAnd let’s face it, those of us living in Southern California do have it really good. Our homes are more temptation than a hungry, thirsty creature coming down from the hills or up from the canyons can resist in hot, dry drought-stricken SoCal.  We also haven’t yet even mentioned the more typical fall season home pest problems—snakes, spiders, mice, rats, gophers or gutter nesting birds and swooping swallows or bats that want to move and stay for the winter season.

So what’s a frustrated Southern California homeowner supposed to do when there’s a party in your backyard, garage or attic with some pretty unsavory guests?  At Helfrich Associates, we run into these problems or their left-over damage from such visits during home rebuilding, remodeling, or disaster repair projects.  As tempted as you might be to get a shotgun, that’s often a dangerous or only temporary solution. Shooting snakes, raccoons, skunks, black widows or brown recluse spiders, or rats or mice is “overkill” anywhere on your residential property.

Black and white spider in WebIf Level 1 threat small pests are the problem, then it’s time to call your local pest control service.  They can spray for spiders, ants and termites, as well as trap rats or mice or gophers.  When it comes to snakes, depending on where you live, your local city animal control or private exterminators who specialize in poisonous snakes are the best bet.  Don’t try to remove or kill venomous snakes because you likely will only get one attempt and it’s not worth getting bit.

Coyote in FieldBefore you try baiting or trapping Level 2 threat such as coyotes, badgers, raccoons, or skunks, be sure to check with animal control to see what’s allowed in your city or county.  You can easily run afoul of local humane, wildlife or endangered species ordinances, regulations or laws depending on what’s causing the problem.  And don’t even think about shooting bears or cougars on your own—that’s a recipe for an emergency room visit or worse.

We also know of one homeowner who bought humane cage traps for raccoons only to be cited for leaving the caged animals in the sun on their concrete drive-away all day after calling animal control and requesting pick-up.  These creatures can sometimes be re-settled away from people where they really do have an important role in our ecosystem.

Our advice to homeowners about calling in the professionals also applies to lot buyers with custom home plans and no permits yet.  At Helfrich Associates, we’re licensed, professional structural engineers with decades of planning, permitting and construction experience.  We can survey that hillside property and tell you before you buy if that sloped lot is buildable or what it will take (cost) to stabilize it as well alert you to potential wildlife and other property issues.

Let us help you turn your hillside, canyon, mountain or lake custom home dreams into a real house that is built to last on solid ground with green, sustainable technology, which is in harmony with nature’s wildlife.  We’ll also help you sleep better at night from the very start of your project by avoiding those spooky nightmare situations!

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