When most managers and condo-dwellers think of “pests,” they're probably thinking of mice and bugs—especially if they live in an urban area. But in semi-rural and even suburban New Jersey, any number of animals can make nuisances of themselves: migrating geese can befoul golf courses, deer can chew hedges into mulch, and gophers, raccoons, and squirrels can devastate landscaping, strew garbage for blocks, and infringe on residents’ peace and quiet. In recent years, bears have even begun to join the fray as housing developments encroach on their natural habitat.
Indeed, there seems to be no limit to the critters that pest control companies are brought in to remove. “Everything under the sun,” says Dan Bradbury, vice president of Viking Pest Control in Denville. “Raccoons, squirrels, groundhogs, snakes, deer. We’ve even gotten calls for bears, foxes, and coyotes.”
While larger wildlife nuisance animals are more rare than say, field mice or ants, they have the potential to cause greater trouble because of their size. They can damage structures and amenities, menace residents, and even spread disease. “Squirrels and raccoons can get into buildings and destroy material,” Bradbury says. “They pull apart insulation, and their droppings are a sanitation hazard. But the biggest threat is electric fires, from them gnawing through wiring,” Bradbury says. “That’s fairly common.”
“Animals can do a surprising amount of damage to a home,” agrees Joe Kosakowski, owner of Wildlife Control Specialist, a company in Lebanon specializing in non-traditional pests. “Whether it is the chewing of rodents, the removal of a screen by a raccoon, the droppings of a colony of bats, or the digging of a skunk.”
And then there’s the chance that you, your kids, or your pet might come into contact with a wild animal—perhaps one with rabies. Rabies is rare in humans, but can still be spread by close contact with contaminated wildlife, including bats, raccoons and squirrels. Rabies in raccoons first appeared in New Jersey around 1989 and since then, rabid raccoons have been found periodically in all New Jersey cities and towns. Suburban areas in which raccoons, people, and pets are in close proximity have had the highest number of cases. Rabies in bats has been a problem throughout New Jersey as well—even as early as the 1930s. In addition, raccoon feces may contain roundworms and other parasites humans can accidentally ingest or inhale, causing dire illness in some cases.