Christmas is just around the corner and children all over the world are eagerly awaiting a visit from Santa. They are dreaming about him flying over snow-covered rooftops with his sleigh and sliding down the chimney to deliver their gifts. The last thing you want your toddler to do on the night before Christmas is sneak a look up the chimney and see a furry black and gray masked bandit staring down at them rather than the friendly bearded face of Santa. But while Santa is only a fantasy, a raccoon in your chimney is a very real possibility.
Chimneys Make Great Homes for Raccoons
Many people overlook their chimneys when they start wildlife proofing their homes. You might think that your chimney is too small and inaccessible to provide a good home for a raccoon, but you would be wrong. Raccoons are master home invaders. They can easily identify potential Main and won’t hesitate to exploit them. And what more obvious way to access your home than through your chimney. For a raccoon that convenient opening on your roof is an invitation to enter.
According to Chris Steven’s from Skedaddle, “Some animals like squirrels or birds may fall down your chimney accidentally while looking for warmth and then end up trapped as there is nothing for them to grip onto to climb back out. Raccoons, however, are large enough to climb out by bracing their backs against the opposite wall. We even have some good videos showing this technique.” This means that raccoons can easily make themselves comfortable in your chimney, come and go as they please, and cause all sorts of headaches.
Even if the chimney isn’t left totally open, a raccoon will still find a way in and very few chimney caps are strong enough to keep a determined raccoon out. And while your chimney might not give the raccoon access to your actual home, what many homeowners don’t realize is that there is actually quite a large space above the fireplace and below the chimney and this provides more than enough room for a raccoon to sleep comfortably and even walk around. Just like your attic, the chimney itself provides a safe, warm space for a raccoon to make a den and raise their babies.
The Dangers of Having Wildlife Living in your Chimney
There is nothing like a crackling fire to warm up your home and add to your Christmas cheer. But before you light your first fire of the season you need to make sure that your chimney is clean and clear, or you may end up with a roaring house fire rather than just a cozy home.
Homeowners generally don’t use their fireplaces when the weather is warm, and they don’t give much thought to what is going on up the chimney. But while you are enjoying the long summer evenings barbecuing in your garden, birds, rodents, bugs, and other unwanted house guests could be making themselves at home in your chimney. During this process the following items will build up in your chimney and drop down into your chimney flue, creating a fire hazard.
- nesting materials
When you light your first fire of the winter the sparks fly and all that dry material goes up in flames filling your home with smoke and toxic fumes.
House fires and toxic fumes, however, are not the only potential problems caused by having wildlife living in your chimney. As Chris Stevens also explains, “a fireplace is a drafty place and air often moves from the fireplace into the home. If animals have been living there and defecating in the space, there is a risk of roundworm spores being blown into your home. Most raccoons and squirrels also have fleas or ticks, these ectoparasites may leave their hosts at any time and crawl into the house and onto pets and people.”
How do you Know if you Have Wildlife Living in your Chimney?
Like wildlife in your attic, it is the noise that gives animals away in your chimney. Homeowners usually notice that they have a problem when they hear scratching and stomping sounds coming from above the fireplace. Another dead giveaway is when your neighbours knock on your door to tell you that they have seen a raccoon or squirrel climbing into your chimney. If that happens, don’t hesitate, call a wildlife technician to do a home inspection and remove the animal as soon as possible. The longer you wait the greater the damage will be because the offending animal is not going to move out of your home of its own accord. If it is a female, it may well have chosen your chimney because it is a secure place to raise a family.
Preparing Your Fireplaces and Chimneys for the Winter
At the end of fall always give your chimney and fireplace a good clean. It is best to hire a professional to do the job safely and properly. If you hire a chimney sweep and they discover a raccoon living in your chimney you will need to call in a wildlife control expert to remove the animal safely. Once your chimney has been thoroughly cleaned and any wildlife has been removed and relocated, you then need to fit a screen over the chimney to prevent any future invasions.
Fire Safety Tips
Besides checking your chimney before the winter, you should also test all your household fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and replace any flat or faulty batteries. Keep your fire extinguishers in accessible locations and make sure that you have read the instructions and know how to use them properly. You also need to ensure that all your fire extinguishers have been serviced, are properly pressurized and coded for wood fires. If you have a traditional wood-burning fireplace you should only burn dry, seasoned firewood. Do not be tempted to burn old Christmas trees, wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, boxes and packing material after the festivities are over.
Call in the Experts to Wildlife Proof Your Home this Winter
Raccoons are crafty animals and the best way to protect your home from an invasion is to get a wildlife control expert to do an inspection and identify any potential entry points or vulnerable areas. If you do not have suitable chimney caps, our Skedaddle technicians will easily be able to install a wildlife proof chimney cap that will prevent even the most determined raccoon from using your chimney as a convenient den site. We give you peace of mind and ensure that when your kids look up the chimney for any signs of Santa they will not be frightened by a masked bandit.