It’s all too easy for homeowners to adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to cleaning their gutters. But in reality, an accumulation of debris can cause clogs and blockages, which leads to runoff water falling near a home’s foundation, where it can do significant damage.
But the dirtiest of the dirty gutters include more than just leaves and pine needles. These gutters actually house wildlife. Here are 10 strange things you might see in your gutter if you have been neglecting your gutter cleaning duties.
1. Plants. Not all of the living things are animals. If your gutters are extremely unkempt, then the nutrient-rich debris can form a level of soil into which weeds, plants, and flowers can take root. Rule of thumb: if flora is growing in your gutters, it’s time to clean them out.
2. Birds. A bed of leaves, twigs, and pine needles can make a wonderful foundation for a bird’s nest. Our fine-feathered friends won’t even have to go very far to get construction materials for their nests. And when birds start laying eggs in these nests, they could even become aggressive if you try to remove the nests.
3. Squirrels. The most common way these rodents find there way onto roofs and into gutters is via overhanging tree limbs. That’s why it’s wise to keep these branches trimmed back. A buffer of at least three feet is usually enough to disrupt a “squirrel superhighway” that leads to your roof.
4. Chipmunks. Gutters seem to be the perfect size for chipmunks. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent them from setting up shop in your gutter. The easiest one is to use a gutter guard to keep them from getting into your gutters in the first place.
5. Feral cats. If your area is home to numerous cats that wander around, then there’s a good chance that some of them will climb up your home and nestle in your gutters. It’s a safe place away from natural predators. The most humane way to get rid of them is to trap these felines and take them to a nearby animal shelter.
6. Possums. If they get the opportunity, they will try to “play dead” in your gutters. These nocturnal creatures will amble onto your roof, laze in your gutters, and even give birth to a litter if they are left alone.
7. Raccoons. Like possums, raccoons will try to make themselves at home in your gutters. Using a metal cage trap — with a mechanism that is designed to slam shut and enclose the animal — is usually your best bet. And raccoons will eat almost anything, so baiting the trap is easy.
8. Lizards. Yes, even reptiles will crawl into your gutters and hang out. That’s because untended debris is a breeding ground for flies, mosquitoes, and other insects — which also happen to make up a lizard’s menu. Remove the food source, and the lizards will soon follow.
9. Snakes. Believe it or not, snakes have been found inside rooftop gutters. They either slither along overhanging limbs or climb up a downspout. Again, it’s all about sustenance: rodents and another small animals can be found in dirty gutters, and the snakes will be able to smell them there.
10. Earthworms. This may be the most quizzical discovery inside your gutters, but it’s true. It’s not known exactly how earthworms get into gutters, but some people believe that the worm eggs attach to bird’s wings or legs and are carried up to the gutters, where they hatch and beget worms.