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Chatham Emergency Services Update

By Carey Ruppert - cruppert@chathames.org
Chief, Skidaway Division

Squirrels, Raccoons, and Bats – Oh My!

One of the many wonderful things about living on Skidaway Island is that we live in the middle of a wildlife sanctuary and can observe and interact with more than 200 varieties of birds and countless varieties of other wildlife. Where else can you observe a bald eagle while eating your breakfast cereal?

However, as with many other bountiful situations, there are a few downsides, not the least of which is Bambi and his family using your front yard as a salad bowl. Unfortunately, some of our loveable furry and feathered fellow residents, if left to their own devices, can precipitate hazardous fire conditions. Here are a few of these situations and suggested ways to mitigate your fire risk.

Animals Chewing on Electrical Wires

 Most rodents have very strong, sharp teeth, and they maintain this strength and sharpness by constantly gnawing on a variety of natural and synthetic materials. Of particular interest to us are rats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, possums, and even bats -- all of which live on Skidaway Island in abundance. When these rodents can gain access to either your attic or crawl space, they particularly enjoy chewing on the coatings that surround electrical wires. This can lead to those wires shorting and possibly sparking, which can cause outages as well as fires. If you haven’t already done so, you should ensure that any opening to your attic or crawlspaces, no matter how small, are animal-proofed with wire mesh or other material.

Birds and Animals Nesting in Chimneys

The sounds of birds singing can be a happy sign of spring’s arrival, but not so much when those sounds come from your chimney. The same applies to the squeaking of tiny critters looking for Mama. It is not uncommon for birds, squirrels, or raccoons to nest in the flues of chimneys. In addition to the noise and smell coming from a nest in your chimney, the nesting material can block your flue and increase the chance of a chimney fire and a deadly carbon monoxide buildup. Bear in mind, some bird species are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so any action to clear their nest must wait until the eggs are hatched and the young birds have fledged. At that point, you can have a chimney professional remove the nesting material and install a chimney cap to prevent future nests.

Birds Nesting on Porch and Other Exterior Lighting

Birds are attracted to the warm, dry environment of our porches, and nesting spots high atop porch lights seem particularly safe and inviting. Besides being unsightly, this nesting material can overheat and catch fire even when the lights are on a timer and aren’t on all the time. In fact, many fires are reported nationwide each year by this situation. If you notice the beginnings of a bird’s nest on or in your light fixture, remove it and take measures to discourage future building. This can involve something as simple as deploying a plastic owl decoy or as involved as installing appropriate-sized bird spikes on the light fixture. (Small birds will nest amongst the spikes if the spikes are too large.)

The moral of this story is to enjoy your life in the wildlife wonderland that is Skidaway Island but exercise a few preventive measures to ensure your home doesn’t suffer the consequence of becoming a wildlife habitat.