Keeping Snakes Away This Summer

Many of Michigan’s 18 snake species–including our only venomous species, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake–begin reproducing in late spring. By summer time, they give birth and their young begin to grow and hunt. Both young snakes and adults become more active during summer time, which means they may become more active near you.

Chances are you don’t want that, to say the least. Luckily, you don’t have to let sneaky summer snakes slither their way around your property unimpeded. Just like every other kind of pest, your least favorite reptiles come to your home looking for specific things. Taking those things away will drive them out and keep them from coming back. Here are the three best ways to keep snakes from troubling you this summer.   

Cover Control

keep snakes from accessing cover to keep them away from your homeSnakes are cold-blooded, which means they can’t regulate their own body temperatures the way mammals can. During summer, they have to stay in cool places or they’ll overheat and die. Snakes survive the hottest times of day by taking cover in underbrush and other forms of shade and shelter. Some even burrow under topsoil or dig makeshift hollows beneath rocks, wood piles, porches, or decks. Snakes remain stationary for most of the day, emerging to hunt only when temperatures fall around dusk.

Snakes need cover to survive, so naturally they tend to stay around areas where they can access it easily. Depriving the reptiles of opportunities to stay out of the sun will make your home inhospitable and unattractive to them. Try to clear clutter around your property as much as possible, especially near your home itself. Fence off outdoor gardens, especially if you use mulch or loose, thin topsoil. Check for areas around your deck or porch where snakes could access shade and block them off.

Lawn Maintenance

Keep your lawn well-maintained to keep snakes away from your homeSnakes rarely move around in broad daylight without cover. Not only would this tire them out and heat them up, it would also make them vulnerable. They need to move from place-to-place without exposing themselves to heat or predators. They accomplish this by slithering under tall grasses, brush, plant life, fallen foliage, and other natural cover. The easier it is to move around your yard in cover, the more comfortable the pests feel approaching your home.

The harder you can make it for snakes to sneak and slither their way around your property, the better. First, mow your lawn regularly. The longer your grass, the more cover it provides. Some of Michigan’s snakes get surprisingly small, so even slightly overgrown grass may suit them just fine. Make sure you also trim your bushes, ornamental shrubs, and other greenery. Try to reduce the number of “avenues” they can use to move through your yard as much as possible.

Rodent Removal

Remove snakes from your home to drive snakes away Yes, unfortunately rats and mice won’t leave you alone just because it’s summer time. Rodents will try to infiltrate homes to access food, shelter, and nesting material pretty much all year. Rats find their way into homes using their highly-developed senses. These senses lead them straight to tiny openings they can use to squeeze their way into your home. Some rats even carve their own paths indoors by damaging weatherstripping or chewing through worn caulk or insulation.

Unpleasant as this all sounds, you’re probably wondering what it has to do with snakes. As rodents hunt for ways into your home, snakes hunt them. Sometimes, they’ll even follow rats into your home while hunting them. Then not only do you have a rodent infestation, you have snakes in your home too! Try to find places where rats and mice could get into your home and seal them off. Pay particular attention to door and window frames and openings around utility lines. Preventing rodents from getting into your home well also deter snakes. If you need help getting the rodents out of your home once and for all, give Griffin a call anytime! 

 

Most of Michigan’s snakes may not be dangerous, but they’re certainly unpleasant. To avoid dealing with any slithering reptiles this summer, keep up with the simple maintenance projects outlined in all three tips.

It’s harder to get snakes out than it is to keep them from getting in, so stay proactive to have a snake-free summer!

How Does Wildlife Survive the Winter?

How Does Wildlife Survive Winter?

If you think preparing for winter is a big hassle for you, imagine how it is for animals. They don’t exactly have the resources you do. Like a home. Or clothes. So how could they possibly get through a winter without freezing to death? How do they make sure their babies get through winter?

The answers are more varied, creative, and effective than you’d think. Life finds a way, after all. Here’s how four of Michigan’s most common wildlife species hustle their way through the coldest months of the year. After reading what these poor animals go through, you’ll never think about your home the same way again!

Squirrels

squirrels fatten up and stash food to survive winterAs soon as temperatures drop, squirrels scramble to collect as many nuts, berries, and seeds as they can get their paws on. You’ve probably seen the common eastern grey squirrel race around stashing every crumb of food that isn’t nailed down countless times. They stash their foraged horde in several hidden caches for when they need it. They’ll return to the stashes (well, the ones they actually remember) to snack all winter.

At least, they’ll go back if if they don’t gobble up the food they find before they get a chance to stash it. Squirrels are known to eat their entire body weight in a week or less in fall! By winter, most squirrels fatten up so much it’s a wonder they can move at all! Squirrels need that fat to keep them warm. Although they sleep a lot to conserve energy, very few squirrel species hibernate in winter. Even the fattest squirrel needs to wake up and munch a midwinter snacks to stay warm and healthy.

Skunks

skunks burrow under structures in groups in order to survive winterSkunks don’t horde like squirrels do, but boy do they eat. Skunks spend fall hunting and eating insects, worms, lizards, snakes, mammals smaller than them, and more. All this eating builds thick layers of fat to insulate the skunk from the cold. When winter begins, skunks usually find burrows by digging under natural or manmade cover. Many skunk species create large, multifamily burrows and keep each other warm via proximity.

Contrary to popular belief, skunks don’t hibernate in winter. During the coldest times of the year, they enter a state of reduced activity called torpor. Torpor functions similarly to hibernation. The skunk enters a deep sleep, during which its metabolism drastically slows down. The big difference is, torpor doesn’t last. Like squirrels, skunks have to wake up and eat multiple times during winter to survive. When skunks wake up, they’ll take whatever food they can get. Skunks might react defensively if encountered after waking up. If you think you have a skunk spending winter under your porch, be careful!

Moles

moles dig deep underground to survive winterOk, we know we said these animals solve their winter problems creatively. But, look, creativity isn’t really what moles are all about. These mammals do one thing, and they do it very well: they dig. Moles don’t stop digging, even after the ground freezes in winter. Instead, they just dig deeper. Some mole species may dig as deep as 30 inches into the earth. They can also dig complex burrows deep underground to hunt and trap their food. Like squirrels, they may even store food in these burrows for when they need it in winter.

Most mole species seldom return to the surface during winter. They may not even be able to burrow through the hard ground. Instead, they remain in their burrows all season, relying mainly on earthworms, grubs, and subterranean insects for food. Moles rise back up through the ground as temperatures rise and the surrounding earth softens again. Sometimes, they may even return to the surface before snow melts completely.

Snakes

snakes congregate together in shelters called hibernaculums to survive winterAs if winter wasn’t bad enough, snakes have to contend with an extra challenge: their cold blood. As reptiles, snakes rely entirely on their surroundings to regulate their body temperatures. And they don’t even hibernate! How could something like that possibly survive winter? Instead of hibernating, snakes enter a torpor-like state of reduced activity called “brumation”. Brumation is an extreme slowing of a snake’s metabolism. During brumation, snakes can survive without eating or drinking for long periods of time. They still can’t survive freezing temperatures, however.

Before they enter brumation, snakes have to find or make an overwintering site called a “hibernaculum”. Brumating snakes are completely vulnerable while they sleep, so the hibernaculum has to be hidden. It can’t be out in the open, either, or the snakes would freeze. Usually, snakes burrow under existing cover like hollowed-out logs, porches, or rocks. Snakes often make hibernaculum nests in large groups, to keep one another warm. Like skunks, brumating snakes wake up periodically to seek food on warm days.

 

As tempting as sleeping the winter away sounds, we’re guessing you’re pretty grateful you’re not wildlife right about now. Considering how much work winter survival is, it’s hard to begrudge the pests sneaking into your home this season. Just because you understand it doesn’t mean you have to tolerate it, however.

If you have pest problems anytime this winter, give Griffin Pest Control a call right away. We’ll make sure to take care of the problem, so you can get back to surviving the winter your way–in style.

4 Ways to Keep Squirrels Off Your Bird Feeder

4 Ways to Keep Squirrels Away from Your Feeder

Squirrels are always rather mercenary when it comes to getting food, but fall is when they become relentless. Nobody knows this better than the innocent bird lover. You’re thinking about taking your feeder down for the year, but a few feathered friends still rely on it. So, your bird feeder remains, perched against the fall like a bird seed-based symbol of defiance. Then… the squirrels come.

These rodential rascals stop at nothing to deprive your birds of the meal that’s meant for them. They’ll hang upside down, perform death-defying acrobatics, and get shockingly aggressive, all in the name of a little seed. They seem unstoppable. They’re not. You just need to get even more creative than they are. Here are four ideas to help you get started.

Baffle Them

baffles may help keep squirrels away... as long as they're big enoughYou can find a bowl-like contraption called a squirrel bafflefor sale at most hardware stores. They’re designed to, well, baffle squirrels. Baffles are made of plastic or metal and hang near the bird feeder. If your feeder hangs from a tree, then the baffle attaches above the feeder. If your feeder rests on a pole sticking out of the ground, then the baffle goes beneath the feeder on the pole.

Place the “bowl” upside down, so that the concave opening points down. When squirrels try to climb on the baffle, they won’t be able to find purchase. Instead of getting at your feeder, they’ll slide off the plastic slope and fall off. Don’t worry–squirrels are master acrobats, so a little fall won’t hurt them. It is pretty funny to watch, though. Baffles are cheap and relatively easy to make. Make sure your homemade baffle is wide enough that squirrels can’t stretch around it. If they can, you know they will…

Diversion

distract your squirrels with a different source of foodBased on the gusto they exhibit in the act, it’s easy to assume squirrels enjoy their feats of robbery. Believe it or not, however, that’s not the case. Squirrels go to great lengths to get at your feeder for one reason: they’re opportunists. When temperatures start to drop, squirrels get desperate to fatten up for winter. They need the food, and they’ve got the skills, so why not stage their high-flying heists on your feeder?

But what if they didn’t need to? Squirrels are all about the path of least resistance. If you were to, say, distract them with a more accessible food source, they’d leave your feeder alone. We’re not saying this idea doesn’t have drawbacks. You’d need a lot of food. Squirrels are nigh-insatiable this time of year. Plus, you’d invite more squirrels to your yard than ever. And you’d be feeding the enemy. When it comes to keeping squirrels away from a vulnerable feeder, however, a diversion may well be your best option. Everybody eats, everybody wins.  

Spice It Up!

use spicy bird seed in your feeders to scare off squirrelsAlright, so you don’t want to deal with any more squirrels than you have to. And you don’t want to feed those glorified bandits anyway. Fair enough. What if you could make the food you’re leaving for birds into something only birds would want to eat? You wouldn’t have to set out more food or even go to great lengths to squirrel-proof your feeder!

Well, did you know that birds don’t mind spicy seeds? They can’t taste the difference. Guess what can? Sprinkle some cayenne pepper or a similar spice onto your birdseed before you put it out. Birds will eat the seed just fine, but squirrels will smell the heat and stay well clear. You’ll have to re-apply the spice frequently, however, or it’ll wash off or blow away. Squirrels will notice the spice is gone as quickly as they smelled it in the first place, and then you’ll be back to square one. Some stores also sell bird seed that starts spicy, so you don’t have to add the spice yourself.

Suspension

suspend your squirrel feeder in the air to frustrate squirrelsThe squirrels around your house can leap up to 10 feet horizontally, but they can’t fly. If you could figure out a way to suspend your feeder just right, you could make it a birds-only zone. The easiest way to manage this gravity-defying trick would be to string up a wire between two trees.

First, find two mature trees that are at least 10 feet away from each other. Run the wire between the trees and pull it taut. Then, run some “spinners” along the wire to prevent particularly determined tightrope walkers. Spinners can be plastic soda bottles, yarn spools, or anything else that rolls. Squirrels won’t be able to walk across the spinner without rolling off the wire and onto the ground. Finally, hang your bird feeder in the dead center of the wire, far from either tree. Voila! You have a floating bird feeder. Terrestrial mammals need not apply. Just make sure the bird feeder is high enough off the ground, too. All this work won’t matter if your squirrels can just leap up and knock seed down whenever they want.

Look, all of these ideas may make it sound like we hate squirrels. We don’t! We actually find their determination and resourcefulness charming. Plus, they have those bushy little tails. The fact of the matter is, though, squirrels don’t need your birdseed. They’ll be just fine on their own. They got this far, after all.

Unfortunately, squirrels aren’t the only wildlife you’ll have be on the look-out for this fall–and most of the rest of it isn’t nearly as charming. If you have a pest problem in your home, whether it’s rodent or insect based, give Griffin a call today. We’ll set you up for winter right, so you have nothing to worry about. Happy bird watching!