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How can I prevent animals from dying in my basement window wells? The wells are about two feet deep and have a clear plastic covers over them. The covers don't fit tightly and critters seem to get in. I just removed:

  • 15 garter snake carcasses
  • 1 live garter snake
  • 2 Snake skins
  • 4 dead rodents
  • 1 live frog
  • 2 dead frogs
  • 3 dead lizards or salamanders

Many of them had clearly been there for years -- many of the remains were skeletal or desiccated.

Here is a picture of one of the window wells (hammer for scale):

enter image description here

I'd like to prevent this problem in the future. I'm thinking that I could:

  • Seal the window wells better (how?)
  • Provide a stick or ladder that would allow critters to exit without getting stuck and dying
  • Use repellant

Which of those options should I pursue, or is there something better?

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I think I finally found a solution. I had tried chicken wire, and it was moderately helpful... apparently, frogs couldn’t use it. I tried angling tree branches for critters to crawl out on, but that didn’t work for frogs, either.

So, I bought some pool noodles and cut them to secure around the top of the window well, and there have been no more critters in the window well! I was skeptical but was willing to try anything. I’m not sure how it works so well, but it is apparently the solution. Here’s what I did:

  • I purchased a package of black (to match the window well) pool noodles. I didn’t want to create a place for mice to live and chew into the noodle, so I got ones that were dense... ones that had the smallest “hole” on the inside.

  • I measured and cut so the noodles fit very snuggly onto the rim of the window well without any gaps. I literally wedged the noodles in on the sides... they are really snug.

When I finished, I realized there was still a gap between the window well and the cover, so I eventually bought some rope caulk to fill in the gaps. But when I finally got the time to add the rope caulk, I noticed that there was not a single critter in the window wells, not even bugs.

So, I didn’t add the rope caulk and have had no problems since adding the pool noodles, about 4 months ago. We have had warm temperatures and now frost in the evenings (hence the icy edges in the pics), and still no critters.

Save the frogs! :-)

enter image description hereenter image description here

  • Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. Nice answer; keep 'em coming! – Daniel Griscom Nov 11 '18 at 14:35
  • Since I asked this question, I've been using leaning sticks just as you tried. That seems to work for mice and snakes. I haven't had dead mice or snakes since putting those in. However, voles can't seem to climb slanted sticks and I some of those still die for me. I also get toads that don't seem to want to get out, living quite happily down at the bottom. Thanks for this new method to try! – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 13 '18 at 12:04
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In my experience, sealing the window wells is only temporary- its pretty hard to outsmart nature, especially over time. Instead, provide an escape route.

  • For critters (with legs), lining your window wells with (vertical) chicken wire provides them sufficient traction to crawl up and out. I have cast concrete window wells (~1.5' deep) and this seems to work with frogs. No experience with rodents (that I know of) but I imagine it would apply. You can also angle the chicken wire slightly (in from the vertical walls) but this creates space behind it where animals are likely to become further entrapped.

  • No experience with snakes but you might consider an angled pole/branch/ramp for them to escape? This works for critters too, but restricts view and is an eyesore. However, I imagine this is less effective, as it is the sole means of escape. Still, probably the only escape structure for snakes...

  • I think repellent is a promising idea but I cant offer sound advice. Also consider what is attracting them. I suspect (for frogs and snakes at least) they are attracted to the heat absorbed by the rock bottom during sunlight. You might validate this by comparing death tolls of shaded window wells to sunlit window wells.

One last word: Probably obvious, but don't enclose the top (to deter entrance) and build an escape route, as the enclosure will prevent their successful escape! Good Luck.

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I have this same problem and to make things more difficult, the well plastic cover is halfway under my front porch so I'm unable to remove it.

What I did for an immediate escape route (2 a.m.) was to put my birdcage ladder in at an angle and clothespin a hand towel at the top and bottom which also propped open the plastic cover a bit. The mouse that was trapped was able to climb out. I will be making something more stable and permanent like a piece of board that I can attach a piece of carpet to and put hooks on the top to secure it to the top of the window well. I've realized it makes me feel better to allow an escape route rather than find (and smell) a carcass in my window well or even more upsetting to have to watch a live mouse struggle trying to get out. Plus it just drives my cat nuts trying to scratch her way to the mouse.

ladder with towel attached

Window well outside view

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Screen the wells so the critters don't get into them in the first place? (Though you may be denying shelter to a feral cat by doing so.)

  • Do you have any references on how to do that well? What kind of screen? What do you attach the screen to? – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 11 '15 at 16:31
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I would cover the opening with chicken wire or simply open the window so the critters don't get trapped. On the plus side of option number two, sometimes dinner will come to you.

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    I think it would have to be something tighter than chicken wire. Rodents and snakes can easily fit through chicken wire. Any tips on how to attach the screen or wire? Especially to the house side which is brick. – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 15 '15 at 22:02
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Could you cap it with an acrylic sheet? Let's the light in, but not pest/water/snow.

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