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It’s a worst-case scenario for any homeowner or property manager — trying to figure out what to do if a rodent dies in your ductwork. Although modern building codes have made many structures more impervious to infiltration by pests, not every home is an impregnable fortress. It is still surprisingly common for homeowners to contend with frequent incursions by mice and rats, especially during the year’s colder months.


Most of the time, these rodents remain within the walls and ceilings or in indoor/outdoor areas such as garages. Sometimes, though, they can make their way inside your air conditioning or furnace ductwork by chewing their way inside or by entering them another way. Unfortunately, once this occurs, they may not be able to escape again — and they could die inside your ductwork. In a few cases, other animals, such as snakes, can also end up expiring inside these ducts.


When that happens, you may not notice right away or even know that something is amiss — but before long, the effects will be very evident any time your AC unit begins to blow air throughout the home. The foul odors can be nauseating and won’t easily dissipate. When you find yourself in this situation, what do you do?


First, Know the Signs That Say You Have a Dead Rodent in a Duct

Before you begin undertaking an effort to remedy the situation, confirm the nature of the problem. How are you supposed to tell that you might have a dead animal in your ducts? Most homeowners have an idea of whether they have an ongoing rodent problem in the house. One of the key signs before the issue occurs is the clear sound of rodents moving in your ductwork.


Once a rodent dies, it may take several days before the odors begin to circulate in your home. Do you smell a rank, foul odor that seems to linger every time the air conditioner runs? Do you notice the smell especially near vents? These signs say you’ll need to figure what to do if a rodent dies in your ductwork.


Check Return Vents and Other Easily Accessible Areas For the Remains

First, see if you can locate the remains on your own. Some homes have return ducts that are accessible from the floor, and thus you may be able to see if the rodent has died near the entrance. If so, you can remove the carcass and dispose of it outside the home or call animal control for help doing so. Doing so should cause the smell to dissipate, especially if you clean the area where you found the rodent.


Try to Identify the Area of Entry

No success looking for the rat in accessible vents? If you have an attic or another space where you can easily see some or all of the AC ducting, look to see if you can locate a damaged section of insulation where the rodent entered. Although you should not attempt to dismantle or reach into damaged ductwork, spotting these trouble signs and gathering information can help with the next step.


Call an HVAC Professional to Locate and Remove the Rodent

Don’t try to bear the smell — call an air conditioning service provider and let them know about the issue you’re experiencing. During the subsequent service visit, the professional will use various special tools, such as a remote camera, to examine your ductwork and determine the location of the remains. If necessary, the technician may remove some duct material to recover the rodent before replacing it with a new section afterward. In some cases, other tools can be used to clear the remains from the ducts.


Consider Investing in Duct Cleaning

Although the smell will go away soon after you eliminate the source, you may not be comfortable knowing that there was a dead animal in the ducts that carry air to every room in your home. Requesting a service such as duct cleaning could help to put your mind at ease. Using various tools and solutions, duct cleaners remove dust, dirt, and debris from your ducts while also fully sanitizing them to remove mold and other contaminants. When you’ve recently had a rodent removed, going through this process could help to ensure continued good home air quality.


Know When to Turn to the Pros for What to Do If a Rodent Dies in Your Ductwork

If you smell something foul coming from your vents when the AC or the furnace runs, don’t delay — start trying to address the problem quickly. Restore the air quality of your home and breathe easier again. Know where to find a trusted HVAC team with duct cleaning capabilities to sanitize your system. Don’t worry about what to do if a rodent dies in your ductwork when you can find fast help to remedy the issue.