The Role of Raccoons, Mice and Possums In Our Ecosystems

The Importance of Raccoons in Our Ecosystem

Although raccoons can prove to be a nuisance when they dig through your garbage cans or eat all of your pet’s food, they do in fact hold value when it comes to their contributions to the ecosystem. Raccoons are mostly useful in regards to the food chain on earth, as well as the aquatic food chain. With a diet consisting of insects, crabs, crayfish, lobsters, frogs, rodents, fish, birds, turtle eggs and more, raccoons are useful because they help to control animal populations. Raccoons are also a source of food for larger animals such as hawks, owls, coyotes and even young snakes. Their positions of predator and prey give raccoons an important role in maintaining the balance of prey populations in the wild. Raccoons also dine on plants, nuts and fruits, which helps to spread seeds, allowing plant populations to grow. It is because of these benefits to earth’s ecosystems that Natran chooses to humanely remove raccoons from the properties of Houstonians. 

Three Interesting Facts About Raccoons

Raccoons have become fairly unpopular among humans, as they are perceived as sneaky, bothersome pests that should be removed from residential areas. While they can cause problems for many homeowners and often times raccoon removal is necessary, these creatures do in fact possess some very interesting traits that might make them seem less annoying and more intriguing to you and your family. Read below to learn more about raccoons and three reasons why they are fascinating little critters.

1. Raccoons have some of the most dexterous hands in nature. In fact, their very name “raccoon” comes from Native American words meaning “animal that scratches with its hands” and  “one who takes everything in its hands”. This can partly be explained due to the raccoons high sensitivity to touch. Raccoons will use their hands as a way of learning more about the objects they are handling, as a large portion of the sensory data they process comes from the tactile feedback they receive from objects they handle in their paws.

2. The black markings on a raccoons face have helped to give them the stereotype of being mischievous or thieving. However, these black facial markings serve an important purpose in a raccoons ability to function during their active night hours. The dark color of the fur under their eyes will absorb any present light during the night time that might impair their vision. Less light shining in their eyes as they scavenge at night makes it easier for them to recognize contrast in objects which is a crucial part of seeing in the dark or in poor lighting.

3. Raccoons are incredibly resourceful animals and have become great problem solvers, especially when there is food involved. If you have ever encountered a raccoon on your property, you might have noticed their crafty and clever abilities. However, these skills have also been tested in labs, proving that even in controlled settings, raccoons are truly intelligent and cunning creatures. In 1907, ethologist H.B. Davis conducted a study to test the intelligence of raccoons. In this study, David provided twelve raccoons with a series of locks and the task of cracking them. In order to access the treats that were placed inside the boxes in the experiment, the raccoons had to figure out a way to get past multiple hooks, bolts, buttons, latches and levers. At the end of the experiment, the twelve raccoons were able to unlock an astonishing eleven of the thirteen locking mechanisms.

How To Deter Raccoons From Your Property

Before your raccoon woes come to the point of needing professional pest control interference, there are some steps that you can take to deter these critters from paying a visit to your property.

  1. Make sure your garbage bins are tightly sealed so that raccoons do not have easy access to their contents. As mentioned, raccoons are extremely dexterous, so if your garbage cans are left outside with loose lids, the chances of these creatures finding their way inside are highly likely. Additionally, empty your trash cans often so that the smell of your garbage does not entice raccoons.
  2. If you have pets, keep their food indoors overnight. Raccoons are happy to dine on your pet’s food and will eat any leftover contents in the food bowls if left outside. If you use bird feeders in your yard, it is also a good idea to pick up any spilled bird food around these feeders, as raccoons will happily munch on this as well.
  3. Plug or block any points of access that raccoons might be able to use to gain entry into your garage or home. These access points include seams along your roof, vents, chimneys or pet doors.
  4. Cut overhanging tree branches near your roof. These branches can serve as a bridge to your roof and also offer coverage or hiding places for raccoons.
  5. If you find evidence of a raccoon’s nest in your attic, deck or garage, you can coax them to leave by adding bright lights, a loud radio or rags dipped in ammonia in the area with the nest. All of these tools will scare existing raccoons away and can also deter any future raccoon families from making their home on your property.

The Importance of Mice in Our Ecosystems

When we think of mice, we usually do not consider the important role they play in our planet’s ecosystem and instead, we think about the annoyances they can cause when they infest our homes. However, mice and other rodents like them play a variety of vital roles in maintaining balance in the natural environment. 

1. Mice Provide Food For Carnivores 

Possibly the most important function that mice have in our ecosystem is their role as prey for many of nature’s carnivores. Since mice live in a variety of environments and terrains, including forests, deserts and fields, they can make the perfect meal for different types of carnivores including hawks, owls, shrews, bobcats, skunks, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

2. Mice Spread Seeds

Another benefit that mice have for the earth’s ecosystem is their ability to disperse wild seeds. During the winter months, mice that live in tropical forests will scatter-hoard seeds, meaning they gather and hide their seeds in different areas on the land which they live. Often times, these mice will not end up eating all of the seeds they have hoarded and the seeds will be left to germinate if the conditions are right. The germination of these seeds leads to new tree growth and thicker vegetation covers. However, mice do not only seed hoard in tropical forests. The mice that enter your home also partake in this hoarding behavior. When a mouse makes its way inside of your home and steals the food in your kitchen, they can sometimes hoard and spread seeds in this way if seeds are present in their loot.

3. Mice Aerate The Soil

When they are not hunting, mice and other rodents will dig burrows under the ground as a hiding place. These burrows are used to store food and for hibernation during the winter time. As mice dig these burrows and tunnels, the top layer and deeper layer of soils are mixed which pushes carbon deeper into the soil. Plants then absorb this carbon in their roots which aids in plant growth.

Four Interesting Facts About Mice

Mice get a pretty bad rap when it comes to their relationships with humans. Although these tiny critters do not mean much harm and are usually happy to exist without scaring people, they are often seen as animals that need to be exterminated or killed. Learning more about how these critters move throughout the world and some of their habits might make them a bit more interesting and a lot less frightening to you and your family.

  1. Mice Have Supersonic Hearing

Mice have some of the most superior hearing abilities in the world. They are able to hear ultrasound of up to 90kHz To put this into perspective, humans are only able to hear up to approximately 20kHz. Interestingly, male mice use their high pitched squeaks to communicate with mature females with which they were interested in mating. In one study, female mice were able to differentiate between the calls of their brothers and the calls of their potential mates. One might view these ultrasound communications as a sort of love song serenade between suitor mice and female mice.

2. Mice Are Olympic Level High Jumpers

If there was such an event as mice olympics, these little critters would take the gold in high jump. On average, mice stand at approximately three to ten centimeters in size and it has been recorded that some mice can jump up to twenty five centimeters high. That is a height of eight times their own body size!

3. Mice Create Different “Rooms” In Their Burrows That Serve Different Purposes

Like humans, mice prefer to keep their homes clean and tidy, even designating particular sections of their burrows for different purposes such as storing food, sleeping and even going to the bathroom.

4. Mice Use Facial Expressions To Communicate With One Another

Another human like tendency that mice possess is the use of facial expressions to communicate how they are feeling to other mice. These expressions usually manifest as expressions of pain so that other mice can see that they are in danger. Scientists have even created what is called the “mouse grimace scale” to determine levels of fearful or painful expressions on the faces of mice.

How To Deter Mice From Your Property

Even though mice can be cute to some and do serve a vital purpose in many ecosystems, they usually do not have a place on your property. Follow the tips below to keep mice out in the wild and out of your home.

  1. Eliminate Rodent Entry Points Into Your Home

To help keep mice in the wild and out of your home, you must seal any potential entry points. This can sometimes prove to be difficult, as mice are able to squeeze through very small holes and cracks to gain entry into the indoors. A good rule to remember is that if you can fit a pencil into an opening, a mouse will mostly likely be able to squeeze into it as well. When sealing these entry points, stay away from rubber, wood or plastic sealants, as mice can gnaw through these materials. Instead, use steel wool or caulking.

2. Keep Your Kitchen and Home Clean

Due to their small stature, mice do not need much food to survive. Just a few crumbs every so often will sustain them. This means that you should stay diligent about vacuuming and wiping floors and counter surfaces to eliminate any potential food sources for infesting mice.

3. Safely Store Your Pet’s Food

Like raccoons, mice like to munch on your pet’s food. Make sure you do not leave your pet’s food out overnight and that it is sealed tightly in glass or metal containers.

The Importance of Possums in Our Ecosystems

Due to their appearances, many people perceive possums as being dangerous or aggressive. However, this is not the case. In fact, possums are docile creatures that will not attack you or your pets if spotted on your property. These animals provide a great service to our ecosystem as they help to eradicate tick populations and consequently, Lyme disease diagnoses. Possums are very good groomers and will kill approximately ninety-five percent of the ticks they find on their bodies. In a single season, one possum can kill an estimated five thousand ticks. Possums are also resistant to snake venom and will find and eat venomous snakes, such as copperheads and rattlesnakes. This minimizes the chance that you, your family members or your pets will be bitten by a venomous snake. Another benefit that possums provide is to gardeners. Possums will dine on snails and slugs that can harm gardens and will eat over ripened fruit and berries that are no use to gardeners.

3 Interesting Facts About Possums

  1. Possums Are America’s Only Marsupial

Most people think of kangaroos when they hear “marsupial”, but the possums you see in your neighborhood are also a part of this group of mammals. Instead of giving birth to fully developed babies, possum mothers will give birth to small, undeveloped babies that will then crawl into her pouch to nurse and live during their first five months. Once they have become strong enough to exist in the wild, they will journey out of their mother’s pouch, staying close to her until they become adults.

2. Possums Rarely Contract Rabies

With a very small number of cases recorded, it is highly unlikely that possums will contract rabies. Marsupials naturally have a lower body temperature than most other mammals in North America, which does not generally provide an environment where the rabies virus can survive.

3. Possums Have Great Memories When It Comes To Food

Through some studies, researchers have found that possums are better than pigs, cats, dogs and rats at remembering paths to a food source. They are also able to recognize the smell of a poisonous substance they might have ingested up to one year later.

Natran Green Pest Control recognizes that just because some animals do not belong in our homes, it does not mean that they deserve to die an inhumane death. We appreciate that all creatures play a vital role in maintaining the very delicate balance of our ecosystem and in turn, choose to humanely remove these animals from your property or home. By rodent or animal proofing your home, we help to stop your problem before it gets worse. Call Natran Green Pest Control today if you are experiencing a rodent infestation and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with humane and ethical pest control services.

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