What’s In My Attic?

Hearing a strange noise coming from your attic? Is it waking you up in the middle of the night or do you hear it during the day? What’s it sound like? A fast scurry? Heavy thuds? Perhaps you’re only hearing it occasionally throughout the week. Or, you’re hearing the noises on a constant basis. “What could possibly be in my attic?”

Wild animals do occasionally look to our dwellings as suitable places to nest and den. Though most wildlife goes to extensive lengths to avoid contact with human beings they still enter our homes and can be the cause of endless trouble if not dealt with properly. But why is the attic a common place of offense? It’s dark, it’s quiet, it’s warm, it’s dry and it offers excellent protection from predators. Put simply, it’s comfortable.

Think you have wildlife in your attic? Use this guide below to help determine what may be living above your head. It details the most common “attic offenders.” Squirrels, raccoons and bats. If you’re unsure or not comfortable trying to determine what may be in your attic, simply give PAWS a call at 860-840-3237. We are happy to help.

The PAWS Guide To Attic Critters:

1. What season or time of year is it?

This is important when trying to determine what is inhabiting your attic. Birthing and rearing seasons are when homeowners most often hear activity in their attic.

Gray Squirrels have two birthing seasons throughout the year. Female squirrels typically enter attics for breeding purposes during late winter and again in late summer. Activity and noises may increase roughly 5 weeks after the young are birthed as they are now capable of running about. March and September tend to be active times. Though these are common times that a homeowner may hear squirrels in an attic, note that these critters can be present throughout the year in an established nest.

Raccoons birth their litters during the spring, typically in March and April, and females will occasionally seek nesting sites in attics. Many nuisance complaints for raccoons in attics come during this time of the year. However, raccoons can and do live in attics throughout the year, using the space as shelter and warmth.

Flying squirrels will form larger colonies during the winter months as a means to keep warm. Colonies may stay attached throughout the year, however, especially those colonies with young that were born in the summer months. In this case the young flyers, even though fully independent at four months, will winter over with the rest of the colony. These critters are active and social and are commonly found in attics. They are quite a nuisance.

Bats may call an attic their home (known as a roost) throughout the year if the attic conditions meet their ideal needs. Typically, temperature is a major factor as to whether or not a bat or bats will use an attic as a roosting site. Maternal colonies of bats are a common cause for complaint. Female bats birth their young during June and July. The young become capable of flight typically during August. It is typically in August when homeowners begin to notice bat noises coming from the attic.

2. What time of day or night are you hearing the noises?

This is perhaps one of the most important indicators to help determine what is residing in your attic.

During the day: You may have squirrels in your attic. Squirrels are active primarily during the day time hours. Activity peaks during the morning hours and again during the evening before sunset. Large colonies of bats can also make noise during the day time as individuals are competing for space in the roost.

During the night: Raccoons are nocturnal and are active primarily during the night time hours. Noises heard from raccoons may be heard at any time throughout the night. Flying squirrels are a common attic inhabitant and these critters, too, are nocturnal along with bats, rats and mice. Bats will leave their roost at dusk and will return at dawn, making noises at these times.

3. The noises I’m hearing sound like…

Squirrels: Scurrying and running about is indicative of gray squirrels. The sounds are light and fast and can be persistent. Though squirrels communicate with one another through vocalizations it is uncommon to hear these sounds. This is not to say squirrels do not vocalize in attics. It simply means many homeowners do not report hearing squirrel chatter coming from above. Flying squirrels will also create a scurrying and fast-paced sound. The sound of scratching can also be heard as squirrel move and place nesting materials.

Raccoons: Thudding, thunking, bumping or thumping. Raccoons are a heavier animal. When they walk, play or move about in your attic it will sound significantly heavy. Like a thud or thunk. Raccoons are also a vocal animal and homeowners often hear the trill of a female raccoon calling to her young or the chirping of the young themselves.

Bats: When leaving or returning to the roost, bats will make a fluttering sound. Though these animals are generally quiet and most homeowners never know they have bat inhabitants living in the attic above, they are heard on occasion. Bat noises are most commonly heard during August when the young in a maternal colony are able to take flight. However, bats can be heard at any time throughout the year. Homeowners also report hearing the shrill or screech of a bat from time to time.

4. So how did it get in?

Many nuisance wildlife situations in attics are the result of failing vent covers or screening. Gable vents are common entry points for bats and raccoons. Peak/roof vents are also a common entry/exit for bats. Soffit vents can be problem areas as well. Other natural “gap areas” that exist on roofs can commonly be found behind gutters and where eaves/soffits meet the roof (on dormers, for example). Small gaps under cedar shingles or siding often attract animals and can become a nightmare of a situation for some homeowners. If the animal did not use a preexisting hole or gap it likely chewed or clawed it’s way in. Squirrels are notorious for chewing through shingles, roof boards and fascia. Raccoons are strong animals that can rip, tear, and claw their way in. Animal-created holes are naturally smaller for squirrels and other rodents. Raccoon holes need to be larger and are often quite obvious.

5. Additional clues as to what it could be…

Hearing animals in your attic is not the only clue that signals the reality of wildlife living in your home. All wildlife, regardless of type or size, will leave urine and droppings in your attic. Of course, dropping size generally correlates to the size of the animal. Mice, bats and squirrels have similar size and shape to their droppings whereas raccoons leave much larger droppings behind. Bat droppings look like a grain of rice, similar in size and color to mouse droppings. Squirrel droppings are similar shape but a bit larger. For health concerns, please do not handle wildlife droppings. Of course, finding droppings means climbing into your attic. If you do not feel comfortable entering your attic to check the situation, please don’t. Call a licensed and trained professional to inspect your attic and help you determine the source of the problems. Droppings can also be seen on the roof, near entry/exit holes. Use a pair of binoculars to search your roof for droppings at ground level. It’s safer.

Wildlife in your attic can often be consistent with odors. Most notably, bat guano leaves a pungent and unmistakeable odor. Raccoon odor is noticeable as well.

One may also look for tracks left by the animal though it is uncommon to find tracks in an attic. Take a look outside. For example, raccoons often climb to roof level using down spouts. Look for paw prints on the down spout or anywhere in the dirt down below. Think outside the box when searching. These critters prove to be the worlds best acrobats at times and can leave sign in some of the strangest places.

Debris is a common indicator of which species may be calling your attic home. Nuts and acorns are indicative of rodents and squirrels. Nesting debris and natural debris can be a sign of squirrel or bird activity.

Staining at entry/exit points is also consistent with some animals. This is more helpful to the trained eye, however.

6. Do I need to have the problem solved?

Absolutely! Wildlife in your attic can lead to many potential problems. Raccoons not only cause damage and destruction but will also have latrine sites where they urinate and defecate. This can become a problem as these latrines will often begin to seep through the ceiling, causing a health hazard to you and your family. Squirrels and rodents can also cause damage. Most notably these critters can and do chew on wires. Chewing on wires can lead to a potential fire risk. Bats are known for causing a mess that can lead to an unpleasant odor and a definite health hazard for humans. Guano, the droppings of a bat, piles up quickly under larger colonies. Having bats removed professionally followed by a thorough attic restoration and cleaning is imperative if a large colony of bats has been dwelling in your attic for a length of time. Other issues, including those caused by rats and mice, can be the source of a major headache for homeowners. Please read section 7 below for important considerations to think about if you’re thinking of attempting to solve a wildlife issue on your own. In most cases, it is best to call a licensed professional to help with wildlife in your attic.

7. Important considerations.

Many homeowners have a do-it-yourself mentality, which is admirable, and attempt to handle nuisance wildlife on their own. However, PAWS does not advocate that you attempt to deal with wild animals in your attic for various reason. Wild animals are unpredictable and can be the cause of personal injury when approached improperly. Safety is always a priority when dealing with wildlife. Wild animals can also be the carries of transmissible diseases to human beings. These diseases can be caused by both direct or indirect exposure to the animals. Even animal feces can be the source of disease contracted by humans. However, the concern lies not only with potential risk to human beings. In many situations, wild animals are using an attic for birthing and nesting purposes. It is imperative to know how and when to handle adult animals when young may be present. Keep in mind that young are typically not readily visible and it can be difficult for the untrained eye to determine if and when young are present. Attic wildlife removal and control should most certainly be left to a trained professional.

8. Additional wildlife that may call your attic home…

Raccoons, squirrels and bats are not the only attic intruders. Other animals such as opossums, snakes, rats and various species of birds may also be residing above your head. If you think about it, ask me to tell you the quick but humorous story of the bear in an attic. It’s a head scratcher for sure!

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I hope this guide provides some help to you in determining what may be living in your attic. For any questions or assistance please don’t hesitate to call me at 860-840-3237. We can work together to find the best solution to solve your nuisance wildlife woes.