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Stored boats and vehicles can attract pesky critters

Published May 16, 2014
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If your car or boat’s been in winter storage, a nasty surprise may await you, warns Brad Gates of AAA Gates’ Wildlife Control.

Unused vehicles, particularly those beneath car covers, are an opportune den site for mice, rats, stray cats, squirrels, birds, raccoons, skunks and opossums.

“Typically, people put high-end or classic cars in storage, and only discover the damage when it’s unwrapped for the season,” says Gates, who’s been humanely evicting critters from vehicles, boats and buildings in the GTA for 30 years.

Wildlife may chew up the car’s interior and defecate all over. Under the hood, there’s rubber belts/hoses, electrical wires and plastic parts to gnaw.

Cars parked in an enclosed garage, rather than outside, aren’t safe either. That’s why I’d summoned Gates, to remove a raccoon from my garage.

I’d been alerted to its presence by some roofing paper sitting on my car one morning, followed by the sounds of her babies (it’s currently the spring birthing season), and confirmed when I tapped on the aluminum soffit and mom poked out her masked head.

Fortunately, that annoyed the mother enough to move on. Gates only had to install screening to secure the entry point and other vulnerable areas (vents, chimneys, etc.).

If the animal is still present, Gates will remove or chase it away, seal up the entry hole, then place the babies in a heated box outside near the entry point for mom to retrieve later that night.

Animals have alternate den sites and mom will return to where the babies were last seen to get them, explained Gates. If you don’t reunite them, momma raccoon, skunk or squirrel will stop at nothing to re-enter your car, garage or attic. (Not to mention that the newborn babies will die cruelly if separated from their mother.)

If high-rise dwellers think they’re immune from such wildlife woes, think again. Gates recalls one upscale Toronto condo where raccoons devoured the plastic side mirrors from six Porsches parked underground. Either they had good taste, or it tasted good.

Gates provides humane animal removal, but the industry is unregulated so check when choosing a company. By law, animals can’t be relocated more than 1 km away.

Tips to keep critters away:

Tightly seal up stored vehicles (no window gaps).

Remove all food/garbage from the vehicle and garage.

Place mousetraps in the garage or around the vehicle.

Keep garage doors closed.

The Toronto Humane Society suggests placing cotton balls soaked in peppermint essential oil inside the vehicle and under the hood to deter vermin.

Email your non-mechanical questions to Eric Lai at wheels@thestar.ca. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

The Toronto Star for Wheels.ca

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