Heat wave ramps up pest control calls in Texas
Local pest control companies report complaints about all sorts of critters showing up inside and outside homes have picked up with the recent heat wave.
TPR's Brian Kirkpatrick has had his own run-ins with some interesting creatures, and he explains that there are a several reasons why they're walking, crawling, and slithering towards your home.
I live in far western Bexar County, where subdivisions are sprouting up one after another, and many back right up against untouched natural spaces filled with critters.
Portions of my front yard have been plowed up at least three times in two weeks by what an expert tells me was a feral hog looking for acorns under a live oak tree.
I went to the store and bought some hog repellent to sprinkle on the yard. I wasn't alone in that particular aisle. There were a lot of people looking for products to deal with their own pest problems.
I pointed out the hog damage to a neighbor, and she told me that images of a large wild hog — complete with wiry hair and tusks — showed up on some neighborhood social media. She also told me she found a baby rattlesnake next to her trash can.
The incidents prompted me to ask: How bad are pest problems across the area? It can't just be me.
One company that deals with larger pests, Urban Jungle Wildlife Removal, reassured me I'm not alone. Animals are on the search for food and water, which have been drying up most of this spring and summer during a long drought.
But they can still find that food and water in and around your home, so here they come.
Stefan Kuhlman is a representative of Urban Jungle Wildlife Removal.
"A lot of people inadvertently provide lot of resources these animals need: food, water, shelter. And so, a lot if it is an animal just seeking out what they need to survive, and unfortunately that means they are coming into contact with people," Kuhlman said.
Trash cans with lids not firmly closed, dog food and water bowls, well-watered yards, shaded areas, holes and cracks in siding, poor weather stripping around doors and windows, and cluttered areas around a house are a few magnets for pests.
Kuhlman said new neighborhoods — not just old established ones — can have pests.
"With new developments wildlife and pests are initially displaced, but as the homes are built the animals move right back in. We frequently get calls from homebuilders that, you know, want us to deal with an animal or pest issue before someone closes on their new home," Kuhlman said.
He said older, established neighborhoods have different sorts of pest problems, where animals have grown accustomed to having people around.
"They've lost their fear of us. You'll hear people (talk) about racoons, where they try to scare them off and the racoon just stares at them like they're crazy. That's because the racoon knows chances are that person is not going to do anything."
Kuhlman describes some of the most active animals right now.
"A lot of people this time of year are having problems with bats, racoons, squirrels, things like that, getting into their attic and walls. There's also a huge increase in activity in around the home for ants, you know, especially coming in looking for water."
He also said indoor flea infestation is getting worse right now. Kuhlman said rats tend to be more of a problem in established neighborhoods.
"What studies show is...the more people there are, the more rats there are. There's a direct correlation. They live where we live. They eat what we eat. We provide literally everything they need. So, if you live, you know, closer into town, getting into downtown areas, you're going to have more rat problems and that's something where it's a problem year-round. It's not really a seasonality to that. They're just constantly getting into houses."
Fortunately, the hog in my neighborhood isn't getting into my house but it's still a problem.
What attracts the animals to a particular property? Cole Murphy of Lone Star Trapping, which traps larger pests all across the state, said feral hogs love a yard that is cared for.
"You know, if you're irrigating grass and they got some real good St. Augustine to root up, they sure enough will if they don't have a fence that'll stop them," Murphy said.
He said you can tell lawn damage is from a feral hog because it looks plowed. They push their snouts down and plow away.
"They're just trying to eat different grubs, different worms, roots, you know, different grasses."
He also said they eat acorns. In fact, they'll eat almost anything.
So how much damage can they cause? A lot.
"You know they might take out a little section of your yard or a flower bed. You know, they might take out your whole backyard. I've come across some pastures that just look like they've been artillery shelled out there because they had a huge hog problem."
Murphy said feral hogs, which usually feed late at night or before sun-up, can usually be shooed away by humans. But he said you should never corner one, especially a boar that could charge you or what Murphy calls a mama hog.
"If you stumble upon some baby pigs and you get between them baby pigs and their mama, that mama is going to come after you."
Just remember: the bigger the pest, the bigger the problem. Always call a professional. Murphy said in his business the most interesting stories are not created by how a critter reacts to being caught, but rather on how a human reacts to catching one.
Kuhlman relays of couple of do-it-yourself stories that went horribly wrong, starting with a woman who had a snake problem.
"She didn't want to get close to it, so she used her gun. Tried to shoot at it. Missed the snake and hit her septic line, so the snake got away scot free and from what she was telling us, she had quite a mess on her hands that she had to deal with."
And then there was the father-son team with a bat problem in their home.
"We had a gentleman...he had bats get into his house. They'd actually gotten into the living space, into the living room, the bedroom, things like that. It was several of them. They were kind of flying around erratically and his son took a baseball bat to try to knock them out of the air. Missed the bat, hit is brand new, $4,000 TV. Just crushed the screen on it."
To reduce pest problems, eliminate food and water sources, clean up clutter, and fill in holes and cracks and replace bad weather stripping and fence in vegetation that attracts hungry animals. And again, call a professional.