Hibernation Habits

squirrel in snow by tree trunk

As we progress into the colder months, it’s important to be aware of animals to look out for. Some animals will be entering hibernation and searching for warmer spots to migrate to. On the other hand, some animals do not hibernate at all.

We’ll go over common animals we see in the winter, their hibernation habits, and signs to watch out for.

Opossums

To start off, opossums do not hibernate due to their low body fat content, but they do search for warm shelter. This includes venturing indoors into your attic, chimney, or crawlspace.

Opossums move around a lot throughout the winter to avoid predators. A male opossum, fitted with a tracking device, visited over 19 different dens in 5 months according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Bats

Bats such as little brown bats and big brown bats can hibernate for more than 6 months waiting for the return of insects. They prefer caves, mines, rock crevices, attics, and chimneys. However, bats do not stay asleep the whole time. A common sign of bats in your attic includes noise or rustling. If an area gets too cold, they’ll move to a warmer area or vice versa.

Moles

While it may appear that moles have disappeared from your property, they have only burrowed further below the frozen surface. Their molehills may not be present, but as the ground thaws in the spring the mounds will reappear.

Raccoons

Similar to the opossum, raccoons do not hibernate but search for warm dens. However, in extreme temperatures, they can sleep up to a month. Although they are usually solitary creatures, some will den in groups during the coldest days of the winter.

Squirrels

During the warmer months, squirrels gather and stash their food for the winter season because they do not enter hibernation sleep. Throughout the day, they are active outside. However, they do stay in their nests during extreme weather conditions. If you hear rustling coming from your attic during the day, squirrels may be nested in your attic.

Groundhogs

Groundhogs are one of the few critters we deal with that do hibernate from the first frost until April. The first frost usually happens between October and November, they then retreat to their burrows. The colder weather triggers a hormone that helps them sleep for the duration of winter.

Removal and Preventative Services

While winter is a less active season for animals, it is the perfect opportunity to have your home inspected and sealed prior to their reappearance in springtime. Chimney capsvent guards, and custom screening protect their most common entry points.

If you believe animals have made their way into your home for the winter, give us a call or use our contact form for removal and remediation!

About an Opossum

Opossum on a Fence

A Few Facts About an Opossum

‘Opossum’ not ‘Possum’

Opossums are North America’s only marsupial. When their young are very small, they are carried in the mother’s pouch. Once they are too large for the pouch, they hang onto their mothers back. They are often confused with Australia’s tree climbing marsupial, the possum.

Playing Dead

Opossums are most commonly known for faking their death. It is actually an involuntary response similar to our “fight or flight” response. Because they are slow movers, their bodies become limp and unresponsive when a threat is present. Additionally, they even secrete a foul smelling odor to mislead their predators.

The Good and Bad About Opossums

Opossums will mostly eat anything. This includes ticks, cockroaches, and rats. Even though those meals are beneficial, it also means they raid your trash cans, pet food, and yard. Finding your garbage scattered all over your driveway or lawn is not the most pleasant way to start your day!

Furthermore, they are also excellent climbers. This means they will find a way into your attic, and turn it into their bathroom. This can be a lengthy and expensive cleaning process. Opossums also like to live under your deck, shed, or crawlspace.

While they aren’t known for carrying rabies, they carry a variety of parasites. If you own horses, they can potentially spread EPM which is fatal.

If you believe an opossum is under your deck, shed, or living in your attic, please call 717-419-0781 or use our contact form. Backyard Wildlife Solutions are your licensed wildlife control technicians for opossum removal and other animals. We are currently serving all of Central PA: ‎Lancaster, Lebanon, Harrisburg, York, and surrounding counties.

EPM Threat to Horses from Opossums

Opossums and your horse’s health

One disease that horse owners in North America (particularly on the east coast) should be aware of is EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis).

EPM is a neurological disease that is often difficult to diagnose due to varying symptoms. Moreover, it is important that owners are aware of the disease as it can be fatal if it goes untreated.

Furthermore, this particular parasite attacks the brain and spinal cord. Ultimately, it causes devastating and long-lasting damage to the nervous system.

Luckily, Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis is treatable and horses recover well if it is treated promptly. Additionally, most horses show improvement after a few weeks of treatment.

How is EPM Contracted?

The primary cause of EPM is opossum droppings. Furthermore, horses contract the disease from eating contaminated feed or grazing.

What are the symptoms?

EPM presents itself subtly or severely.  It can present symptoms similar to several other neurological diseases in horses. Common symptoms shown are:

  • Changes in gait, lameness
  • Abnormal sweating
  • Problems balancing with lifted hoof
  • Incoordination (worsens going up or down slopes)
  • Muscle atrophy, usually over shoulders
  • Paralysis of muscles of the eyes, face, or mouth, evident by drooping eyes, ears, or lips.
  • Mild depression
  • Trouble swallowing, dropping feed.
  • Leaning on a wall for balance
  • Loss of sensation along the face, neck, or body.
  • A drooping lip or repeated facial twitch
  • Change in vision
  • Dropped feed or trouble swallowing
  • Head tilt
  • Drooping ear
  • Changes in behavior, including throwing the rider

How is EPM prevented?

As there are no preventable vaccines for EPM, the most effective preventative measure is to keep opossums away from horses and their feed. Ultimately, we recommend keeping feed covered when not in use and removing any garbage as soon as possible.

If you have a problem with opossums on your property, particularly if they pose a threat to your horse’s safety, don’t hesitate to call us for professional opossum removal.