It’s safe to say that during the warmer months, most of us do not use our in-door wood burning fireplaces. We probably opt for a communal marshmallow roast around the backyard fire pit or outdoor fireplace. However, when a chimney is left out of use for long periods of time, some creatures feel it is the perfect place to take up residence or end up residing in the chimney by accident.

What’s that Sound?

Sometimes a sound coming from a chimney is a branch rubbing up against the structure. If that’s the case then the solution is easy, cut back the branch in question. If the sound is lower down, closer to the opening of the hearth and is random and/or frantic, then you may have an unwanted guest a.ka. animal in the chimney.

Unintentional Animal in the Chimney

The most likely creatures in your chimney are either squirrels, chipmunks or birds. These animals usually fall into the flue and are unable to escape. Listen for frantic rustling, flapping, squeaking, scratching to determine if you have an unintentional guest. If you have dog or cat, they may be anxious or unusually interested in the hearth. Trust their keen senses, they are seldom wrong when sensing unwanted wildlife where it’s out of place.

Intentional Animal in the Chimney

Some animals “move in” on purpose. This is usually done with there is structural damage to the chimney flashing, flue and/or caps on top of the structure. Racoons find chimney’s to be very safe, cozy homes. Birds often nest on top of the chimney away from predators. Squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rats and bats are known to become squatters as well.

Pay attention and watch out for:

  • Sounds (e.g. rustling, scurrying, squeaking – most likely at night)
  • Droppings
  • Gnawing
  • Pungent/out-of-place odors (e.g. feces, urine)
  • Tracks in dust

Whether the animal in the chimney is an accident or has moved in on purpose, take action.

Remove the Animal

The most important thing to remember when you hear indications an animal is “stuck” and/or living in your chimney is to GET IT OUT. Do not ignore it or wait for it to die. If you do, be prepared for pungent odors (e.g. feces and decomposition) and insects that feast on deceased flesh. Yuck!

If the animal is trapped, provide a way for it to escape.

If the animal has taken up residence intentionally, the problem is a little more involved.

  1. Inspect or have your chimney inspected to locate the access point
  2. Fix the area where the animal is getting into the structure
  3. Contact an animal control company to remove the animal(s) from your chimney
  4. Prevent further infestation by having your chimney regularly inspected and repaired

Overall, don’t ignore signs you have an unwanted roommate. Nothing ruins a brisk fall evening, perfect for a comforting crackling wood burning fire in your fireplace than a wild animal escaping into the living room! Listen and watch out for signs that you have unwanted tenants in your chimney. If you find evidence the chimney has been compromised by wildlife, take action immediately.

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