The Lowcountry’s natural resources are one of its defining features. Grand oaks, marshes, the ocean, and of course the inhabiting creatures are some of the aspects that add to the area’s beauty. And, given Daniel Island’s location adjacent to rural and undeveloped places, residents have a front row seat to the Lowcountry’s primitive beauty.
But, as with any place that is developed near a wooded vicinity, the island is sometimes met with curious creatures that wander into populated areas.
“We actually had raccoons swimming in our swimming pool,” Daniel Island resident Becky King recalled. “We had this problem several years ago. My husband put our hammock over the steps because they would come to the steps to wash their food.”
There are several companies, such as McFadden Pest Control, Palmetto Wildlife Extractors, and Charleston Rat Removal, that deal with these issues regularly.
According to Shawn Foxworth, director of pest management at Atlantic Pest and Termite Management, the Lowcountry’s biggest pest concern is large rodents.
“I would say the most damaging would be, from what we see, are racoons, squirrels, and roof rats,” Foxworth explained.
According to several pest control services, mice of varying sizes and rats are the most common rodents to invade homes. They have been known to cause harm to ductwork underneath a house and can also gnaw on electrical wiring.
“When rats infest a home, they have a tendency to chew through electrical wires and components,” states information on the Palmetto Wildlife Extractors’ website. “As a result of this, they can cause a fire to occur within the home. According to statistics, approximately 25% of all fires within the nation each year are caused by rodents.”
Island resident Kathleen Susol said that her family heard scratching inside their house and found evidence of animal activity. While the traps they laid out never caught anything, she suspects rats because of a neighbor’s small infestation.
Foxworth stated that constructional damage is the biggest threat pests can cause to a home. Some creatures are capable of chewing their way through foundation vents and crawl space doors.
“Raccoons are actually fairly strong,” Foxworth added. “They can pull a vent—if they want to get in there, they can actually pull it away from the foundation of the home. Gable vents— squirrels access those regularly, and ridge vents, as well.”
Rodents are obviously a cleanliness issue in most respects, although Foxworth concedes that they don’t necessarily carry disease.
“The CDC’s not going to have much listed there, but when you’re dealing with a rodent, there’s no telling where they’ve been,” he said. “They’re not very choosy or picky on where they spend their time.”
Many outdoor creatures act as an easy transport for fleas, as well.
“If you’ve got a raccoon that’s coming inside your crawlspace or frequenting your attic somewhere and they have fleas, it can turn into a big issue,” said Foxworth.
Fleas thrive in warm, humid climates at temperatures of 65 to 80 degrees, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Many other sources add that fleas are most active during the spring and summer, when the weather becomes warmer.
According to Foxworth, furry pests, especially raccoons, will let their curiosity get the best of them, following fences until they find an opening.
“Houses that are built along the marsh area are maybe a little bit more susceptible to activity of those types of rodents,” the specialist added.
According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the raccoon population becomes heavier on the coast.
“Raccoons inhabit most of the United States, including all of South Carolina, with population densities being higher along coastal areas than inland,” SCDNR described on the website. “In the ACE Basin, raccoons are found near wetlands, including tidal marshes, swamps, and bottomland hardwoods.”
Foxworth recommends residents regularly inspect their home for signs of intrusion to prevent any pest from entering.
“Just take a walk around the exterior and look,” he explained. “Is your crawlspace door intact? Is there a large opening that would allow something the size of a raccoon or a possum to gain access to your crawlspace? In doing so, you’ll see little things. It could be little chew marks from a rat or a squirrel trying to gain access.”
Kathleen Susol concluded that her issue was solved by reinforcing the framing around the crawlspace and securing any opening in the attic.
The best way to keep pests out is to ensure that no openings are available for them to get in because most do not force their way into a home.
“They’re all curious animals,” said Foxworth. “When they’re out foraging and looking for food, a lot of times they’re following fence lines, they’re following the sides of a house or a wall. And if there’s something that’s open that allows them access, they’re going to go in there eventually and that can turn into a real problem.”