National Pesticide Information Center



Problem Wildlife in the House


Wild animals need food and shelter just like people. Animals may move into basements, attics, or garages in search of a place to live. They may also be attracted to food such as garbage, pet food, or bird seed. When this happens, it's not safe for the people or pets in the home or the wildlife. Wild animals can damage electrical wiring and destroy insulation. They can also carry diseases like rabies, or parasites such as mites, fleas and ticks into your home. Never approach a wild animal and keep children and pets away from all wildlife. Contact your local animal control officer if you suspect a wild animal is sick.

Preventing or dealing with wildlife in your home can be difficult, but these tips should help:

  • Know your pest! If you properly identify the species, you can learn about its habits, preferences and needs to develop the best control strategies. Your local Cooperative Extension Service or state wildlife agency can help.
  • Find out how the animals are getting into your home. These entrances can often be blocked with wire mesh or sheet metal. Special caps are available to block chimneys.
  • Keep your garbage in a secure container that cannot be opened by wild animals.
  • Keep pet food in places that cannot be reached by wild animals. Leaving bowls of pet food outside or on a porch can attract skunks, possums, and raccoons.
  • Always read and follow all label directions carefully if you use animal repellents or other pesticides. Make sure the product is designed for use in your home and for the type of wildlife you want to control.
  • Mothballs are not meant to be used to repel animals, and may pose serious risks to people, pets and the wildlife if they are used this way.
  • Many animals, including most birds and their nests, are protected by state and federal laws. Always check with your state wildlife agency before disturbing, trapping or poisoning a wild animal to make sure you are doing it legally.
  • If you don't know what to do, try reviewing the resources below or the local fact sheets on pests in your area. Your local cooperative extension service office may also be able to provide some advice on controlling the problem.
  • If you are concerned about disease or the risk of being bitten or injured, consider seeking professional help.

If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email us at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Information on Specific Types of Wildlife

Additional Resources:


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Tree Squirrels

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Last updated October 28, 2014