Chimney Safety Institute of America emphasizes the need for chimney caps, where appropriate.

Why? It’s all about animal intrusion. The flue is an inviting, cozy environment that may be appealing because it offers refuge, and dry lodging, to the critter. Some crawl in, and some fly in.

Homeowners need to know that they aren’t alone when facing this problem!

More: Here is a roundup of words and pictures of animals intruding.

CSIA Director of Education Ashley Eldridge says critters such as raccoons take residence in the chimney because there’s nothing to stop them.

“We need to protect our animal friends, since we as humans have taken over much of their hollow-tree habitat. And we can help them by limiting their access, because the chimney can be an unsafe environment. Occasionally the animals, or their offspring, cannot exit on their own. ” said Eldridge. “This is a great time to call in a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep to examine and install the proper cap for your chimney, since adding a screen as an animal guard is not the remedy, and not a simple do-it-yourself project for a homeowner. You need something substantial (like stainless steel, but there are other types on the market).

“And you need a qualified professional.”

More: Find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep by zip code.

Keep in mind chimney sweeps must be licensed in order to remove the animals, and the requirement varies nationally.