Animals in the Home
A Fine Mess
While they can seem somewhat scary, most wild animals are harmless. However, this doesn't mean you should relax your guard around any animal that has entered your home. There's a chance the animal could be ill, and some wild animals can carry diseases that you're better off not being exposed to. Always approach them with caution. If you see a nocturnal animal — a raccoon, opossum, or skunk — during the daytime, definitely approach with care. There's a strong chance of these night-time-loving animals being sick or injured.
Finding yourself in the same room with a wild animal can create a state of panic. Interestingly, you might be more excited about it than the animal is. Many wild animals simply aren't as wild as they used to be. Raccoons, for example, are such a fixture in so many neighborhoods that they rarely show fear around people. Skunks often belly up to a food bowl right alongside the family cat. Other wild animals exhibit a decidedly cool demeanor around humans and pets as well.
Overriding the Panic Button
Your first goal when dealing with a wild critter is to keep your cool. This will help you accomplish your most important mission, which is to get the animal to leave, preferably under its own steam. This is your goal, regardless of whether the animal is a casual intruder or has taken up residence.
Wild animals can wreak havoc while inside your house, so you definitely want to get them out as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is to make it easy for them to depart.
If the animal is in a room with outdoor access, open all exterior doors and/or windows. Block off the room, and wait a few hours for the animal to leave.
If the room doesn't have outdoor access, block off an area that includes a room that does. You might have to use a blanket or sheet to do this. An intruder snake may slither off on its own.
Around the House
Keeping calm around animals is definitely the way to go. Skunks, for example, will only spray when they feel threatened. If your little black-and-white intruder starts to stomp its front feet or raise its tail, beware and back off.
If it doesn't, try one of the following:
Pick it up. Wear heavy leather gloves. Keep the snake calm by supporting its entire body. Hold the snake behind its head to keep it from biting you.
Scoop it up using a shovel or scoop.
Snare the snake with a hook or hoe.
Put out a glue board designed for rats. This approach can be a little tricky, as it can be tough to get the snake off the board. A little cooking oil can ease the transition from stuck to slither.
Once you've corralled the snake, drop it into a garbage can or a strong paper or cloth bag with no holes. Take the snake outside and release it.
No, No, I Won't Go
In the Nick of Time
Some wildlife-control and animal-protection organizations rent live traps. If you don't want to buy one, but you do want to trap the animal yourself, it might be worth calling around to see if any in your area rent them.
If the animal won't leave your house, trapping it might be your only solution. You'll need to use a live trap — something that most people don't keep around — and you'll have to dispose of the animals when you trap them, which is something that lots of people don't like to think about. For these reasons, you might want to have an expert — an animal-control officer, a wildlife-control expert, or a wildlife rehabilitator — do it.
If you decide to trap the animal yourself, buy an appropriately sized live trap. You'll find them at sporting goods stores, lawn and garden stores, farm-supply stores, and similar retailers. Follow the directions for setup and baiting. Place the trap in the room with the animal and leave it alone. Check the trap in a couple of hours. If the animal isn't inside, leave it alone for another couple of hours or so. After the animal is caught, cover the cage with a blanket to keep it from becoming frenzied.
For squirrels, capturing in a blanket is an option to trapping. Hold the blanket in front of you so that your entire body is obscured. When you get close enough, toss the blanket over the animal. Roll it up quickly, making sure you don't squish the critter. Take the animal outside and set it free.
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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