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Unwelcome animals can cause foundation damage, too

They go over, under, around and through. They'll tear up your grass, shrubs, trees and gardens. And while they're busy, they can also cause damage to your foundation or crawl space, too.

Signs of animal activity under a houseAnimals like groundhogs, squirrels, raccoons and moles like to dig, chew, burrow and explore. The droppings and odors they leave behind are health hazards, too. It's important to identify the animal that's causing the damage, and determine the best solution to humanely remove it to protect your home.

The photo on the right shows signs of animal activity under a house. Here are some other signs of animal activity to look for that will help you narrow down the possible suspects.

  • If you have noticed digging under your deck or porch, small patches of torn-up grass, and a distinct odor, it’s most likely a skunk. Skunks burrow under structures and often feed on grubs and insects.
  • If there are noises in your attic, you probably have squirrels or raccoons nesting. Raccoons will come out at night; squirrels most often during the day. Young raccoons often sound like puppies and can be very vocal.
  • If you have long underground burrows in your grass and your garden, and have noticed flowers are eaten, chances are a woodchuck βˆ’ also known as a groundhog or whistle-pig βˆ’ has made your lawn his home. Smaller burrows and disappearing flower bulbs may indicate chipmunks or moles.

Those chipmunks and groundhogs might be cute and entertaining, but they can do some serious damage. According to Nora Kwochka at Bobbex Deer and Animal Repellents, "An average groundhog excavates 700 pounds of dirt for one den. They may have four or five dens in their territory."

Groundhog damage may not be limited to the yard. Groundhogs also burrow under houses, especially those that are built on slab foundation.

"Given the speed at which it digs and the amount of dirt it can excavate, the groundhog can do tremendous damage to the underside of a house by loosening the ground on which the structure is built," according to Havahart pest control.

The Wisconsin Humane Society says that the species most encountered in basements in the Milwaukee County area are gray squirrels, eastern chipmunks, house sparrows and European starlings.  "They may come in through the furnace system, dryer vent, a broken door or window, or a door or window that has been left open."

Space under house ideal for animalsOddly enough, the best place to look for an animal entrance to the basement is up βˆ’ at your chimney, the WHS says. Installing a chimney cap will keep critters out of your entire home.  Or, look down at your dryer vent. A vent guard is easy to install, doesn't cost much, and will stop smaller animals from crawling in.

Most animals seek shelter near or in a home because there's an available food source: a garden, pet food, bird food, or garbage in garbage cans. No matter how cute or helpless these animals look when they're peeking out from under your deck, "you absolutely, positively should not feed them!" the WHS says.

To secure possible food sources:

  • Protect your garden with a fence. "A chicken-wire fence will work nicely," says Kwochka.  "It needs to be at least 3.5 feet high and buried 1 foot into the ground with the fence angled away from the garden."
  • Use garbage cans with lids that seal tightly. Weigh down the lids with bricks or other heavy objects, if needed, to keep animals from getting under them.
  • Feed the birds, not the forest. Use a bird feeder with a seed catcher tray, and sweep up up seeds and hulls frequently.
  • Keep pet food indoors. Don't feed your pets in the garage or on the deck. Bring the food bowl inside after giving your pet a reasonable amount of time to eat. Don't leave food out overnight.

Contact a wildlife pest control specialist to remove animals that are causing damage to your home. Then call ABT Foundation Solutions, Inc. at 920-733-4ABT (4228) or contact us online for a free inspection and evaluation.