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Usually when we look for advice regarding pest animals and unwanted visitors in our homes or workplace, the only answers we find result in the death of that animal. But this creates a real problem, not just for the creatures whose lives are abruptly ended, but because this does little to resolve the issue – it’s like applying a band aid. If we can work out how the animals are getting into the property, what is attracting them, and ways we can prevent them from returning, then we not only stop repeat offenders from trespassing again, but we can avoid the need to kill or harm these creatures entirely – saving not only lives, but also the expense of hiring a pest controller or buying lots of traps.

Of course, there may be times when you have no choice but to use fumigation or a similar method if there is a huge infestation problem, especially if you have children, immunocompromised people, or animals living there – all of whom can suffer greatly if exposed to large numbers of pest animals and their excretion – but this isn’t always the only option, and it is useful to know how you can protect yourself without resorting to killing if possible.

1. Blocking Their Entry

It might sound pretty obvious that one of the best ways to prevent pests from entering a property is to stop them getting in, but this is often overlooked. Insects can creep through holes in the wall, slugs can squeeze under doorframes, and mice can scuttle through the tiniest of openings. Larger animals such as foxes and opossums can tunnel under fences, and some pests only show up at night, seemingly invisible presences that are only discovered through the damage they leave behind.

  • Seal all cracks larger than one-fourth inch (the space needed for a mouse to slip through) with hardware cloth, metal sheeting or mortar. Use a good quality silicone or silicone latex caulk.
  • Trim back tree branches so none come within 6 feet of your roof.
  • Check your house for unsealed vents, torn screens, cracks around windows and door frames, open dampers, baseboards, behind sinks, and around pipes and windows for cracks and holes.
  • Use insect mesh to cover air bricks and soffits. Bury fences to deter foxes, badgers, and other digging pest animals – filling with a concrete base is even more effective.

2. Remove All Sources of Food and Water

With nothing to eat or drink, animals will not stay for long. Storing food in air-tight containers, wiping away spills and crumbs as soon as they are noticed, and ensuring there are no leaks from pipes or taps will really help convince a pest not to hang around. Some insects cannot survive without moisture, so keeping your property dry and clean will deter most cockroaches, centipedes and silverfish. Remember to drain the basin at night – many insects, such as roaches, are efficient swimmers, and will congregate in a flooded sink overnight. Do not leave pet food out overnight, and ensure all trash is disposed of properly in sealed bins.

3. Take Away Their Makeshift Shelters and Nests

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Removing any hiding places will encourage an animal to leave, especially if they are nocturnal. Avoid storing wood or foliage in the house, and do not pile up logs or other natural debris right against the walls. Trimming back vines and other plants will also help, as these can provide handy walkways for many creatures wishing to enter your home.

Even something as seemingly innocent as a pile of newspapers, carrier bags, or clothing can become a cosy retreat for rodents and insects, so ensure you keep them away by folding laundry away, tidying up rubbish, and keeping clutter to a minimum.

4. Make Any Repairs to Your Property as Soon as You Notice Decay

Many insects are attracted to rotting wood, so it is a good idea to carry out any building repairs as soon as you notice them. Leaky faucets and pipes will also encourage some animals, whether they are attracted to the water as a drinking source, or because it creates a higher humidity.

Standing water is also used for breeding for some pests, so allowing a dripping pipe to go unnoticed can result in a large infestation of mosquitos pretty quickly in the warmer months. Decaying materials can result in more holes, cracks and gaps too, which provide more entrances for small creatures wanting to investigate your home.

Check your building thoroughly every few months and make a note of any improvements that need to be undertaken to prevent unwanted visitors.

5. Use Humane Alternatives to Kill Traps and Poisons

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There are an increasing number of humane alternatives on the pest control market. Whether you use essential oils to deter spiders, or leave “lion poo” in the garden to deter cats, or buy a crate in order to capture that wily raccoon, you are helping to solve the problem without killing, and are generating demand for a kinder approach to co-existing with wildlife.

More people are learning the truth about poisons, which can not only harm children and pets and non-target animals but causes a slow and agonising death for any who consume it; and more people are turning away from brutal traps that promise a “quick death” but all too often result in injury or prolonged suffering for the animal caught in them. Alternatives such as trapping multiple mice in multi-chamber traps before releasing them once the property has been thoroughly sealed allow humans and animals to live together with reduced conflict. There are even DIY tutorials on humane trapping for those who would rather not kill them.

6. Call an Animal-Friendly Pest Controller Who Will Relocate Wildlife

Not all pest controllers will exterminate animals on sight. Many are now opting for prevention rather than “cure” – teaching customers how they can prevent another invasion while humanely dealing with the current situation, using humane repellents – be it visual, olfactory, or audible – and deterring pests from returning by helping customers to make wise choices with regards to hygiene and property repairs. Working with local businesses who deal with wildlife conflicts in a respectful and humane way is definitely a winning situation.