Many people ask why more of these animals are being seen. One of the main reasons for this is the continuous expansion of commercial and residential developments. Most animals have a natural migration pattern. With the rise of construction in rural areas, migration routes and natural habitats are disturbed. These animals adapt themselves to their new surroundings and start to search through our neighborhoods.
While simply trapping and relocating the animals seems like a quick relief to the problem, it really is not. If you remove one animal that has staked out a territory, another will simply move in. This is why our Department doesn't commonly issue traps. We believe that education is the way to solve the problem.
First, look around the outside of your home. Look for any holes or openings near foundations and steps that small animals can crawl into. A hole the size of a tennis ball is ample size for most small mammals, even raccoons. Openings in porches and sheds or stacked woodpiles provide the ideal refuge for animals. Once inside, many animals nest and even raise offspring inside. Holes should be covered up and gaps should be repaired and sealed (but only AFTER the animal has been driven out). When replacing fencing around patios or steps, remember to sink the boards at least 6 inches below the soil so that animals cannot dig underneath.
Raccoons, opossums and squirrels can easily scale the side of a house and enter through chimneys, vents and holes in awnings. These animals are strong and can rip through most small holes, making them large enough to enter. If your fireplace has not been used for a while, or you may suspect that an animal has made entry to your chimney, DO NOT start a fire in the fireplace. If an animal or its nest is in the chimney, close the trap and have a professional chimneysweep clear the chimney. Starting a fire with an obstructed chimney can cause smoke to fill the house, and the heat can fill the chimney, creating a fire in the upper portion and even into your attic.
Once inside attics, animals may make nests. Traditional traps cannot be used in attics, as there is no way for us to remove a trap with an animal inside from the small openings to an attic. We recommend private trapping services in these situations.
Look around your yard. Many people have bird feeders and gardens. Animals are attracted to a garden that is not adequately fenced. Bird feeders will cause other animals to come around because the seed that falls on the ground provides a great food source. Also look at your garbage cans. Cans should be closed at all times, even when empty. A weight should be placed on top of the cans because animals can open the lids. Garbage should not be put outside or by the curb until the morning of pickup. Skunks and raccoons will attempt to knock over the can and scavenge around inside, scattering your trash.
Our Department will not remove a skunk that is inside a window well. The best way of getting the animal out is to place either a tree branch or a board strong enough to support its weight into the well and let the animal walk out when it can. If a skunk is not able to leave under its own powers, we will recommend a private trapping service to you.
Any area that you may suspect an animal is frequenting should be of concern. When you suspect an animal may be nesting around your residence, but are unsure if animals are inside, simply sprinkle some common flour around the hole and monitor it. If animal tracks appear in the daytime, the animal is probably a gopher, rabbit, chipmunk or other animal that is active in the day. If the tracks appear at nighttime, it is likely a raccoon, skunk or opossum.
Your goal outside should be to drive all wild animals away from the house. Even if the animal is not causing an immediate threat, nesting can cause other animals to move into the area. Some animals will come looking for smaller animals to feed on. Other animals find a home by driving out the previous tenant. If your lawn has had small areas dug up in scattered spots, you may have a skunk or raccoon trying to dig up grubs or other small insects and creatures. You should consider having a landscape service care for your lawn to remove the creatures and repair the lawn.
The best way to remove most wild animals outside the house is to place rags that are soaked in ammonia or mothballs around holes, garbage cans and any area you feel is trafficked by wild animals. This does not actually hurt animals, but rather, drives them away. Animals will smell the ammonia or mothballs and think it is the scent of another (larger) animal that may be "active" in the area. They will then look for another feeding or nesting ground. Be sure to pour the ammonia on rags and not into the ground, as you do not want the chemical to seep into the ground. Pouring into the ground can dissipate quicker than when soaked into a rag and the chemical can damage your grass or nearby plants. Do not use scented ammonia, as this can defeat the purpose of trying to drive the animals away.
If you believe a nocturnal animal has entered your home, keep doors and entrances to this room blocked so that the animal does not migrate through the house. Next, leave a bright light on in the room and set up a small radio. The bright light and noise from the radio will usually cause the animal to move outside the residence. Mothballs can be used inside the residence. Ammonia rags are not recommended as the overwhelming odor of ammonia can permeate to the rest of the house, causing breathing problems for your family.
Never allow a family pet to attempt to drive the animal away. Even the smallest scratch from a wild animal could transfer diseases to your pet. Never attempt to confront an animal that does not immediately run away when you are present and making noise. Never, under any circumstances, attempt to poison, shoot or otherwise kill or maim a wild animal. The Village of Vernon Hills, the Lake County Animal Warden, the Illinois Animal Anti-Cruelty Society, The State of Illinois Conservation Police and the Department of Natural Resources will prosecute fully anyone who performs Cruelty to an Animal.
If an animal looks clearly sick or injured, we will attempt to capture the animal, but only if it is showing signs of illness or injury. If you continue having problems with animals, please let us know and we will attempt to assist you in any way that we can. Remember we will not issue traps except under extreme circumstances where we determine a trap is necessary.
We hope this information is of assistance to you in your problems. If you would like any additional assistance or have any questions, please give us a call. The Department's non-emergency number is (847) 362-4449.