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Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Are You Covered from the Call of the Wild?

 By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pxhere

I was just glancing through the news feeds when I noticed a story covered by one of our local TV stations.  It seems that a suburban neighborhood on the Southside was surprised to find their neighborhood has been overrun by feral pigs. We're not talking cute pink piggies here.  We're talking about furry, toothsome wild boars roaming the streets looking for something to eat. The broadcast suggested that wild pigs, deer and other wildlife were there because a 50-acre woodland had been bulldozed to make way for a new apartment complex.  It got me thinking about the time when my folks moved from New Jersey to Palm Coast only to find out they'd more or less moved into Wild Kingdom.  My mom would tell me about otters and a gator living in the canal behind her home.  My dad routinely saw deer crossing the street and once found what could only have been bear paw prints on his driveway.  Fortunately, they never had an encounter with the wildlife that treated their neighborhood like a causeway.  But I've heard stories of Florida residents having their property damaged by aggressive animal intruders.  So, I thought I'd take the time to clue you in on what's covered by insurance if the call of the wild pays you a visit.

Did a gator get inside your home?  If you live in Florida, finding a gator in your pool or on your property isn't unusual.  However, homeowner's insurance may or may not cover the damage by big reptiles like alligators or reticulated pythons, should they find their way inside your home.  In July 2019, a Clearwater, Florida homeowner found this out the hard way after an 11-foot gator smashed its way into her kitchen through a low window. Once inside the beast thrashed around breaking up the furniture, shattering wine bottles, and making a mess.  The damages totaled several thousand dollars.  After contacting animal control to remove the gator and filing a claim, she learned her policy specifically excluded reptiles, rodents, and other animals.  If you live near the water in Florida, you should read the fine print on your policy and check out the video below.


There's a big old bear in there!  If Yogi forces his way inside your home, odds are it will do considerable damage.  Foraging bears are known to open cabinets and refrigerators in their search for food.  There have even been reports of them tearing off car doors to get the goodies left inside.  Unless otherwise excluded by your policy, most homeowners policies cover damage done to your home by bears and deer.  

Oh dear, I hit a deer!  Other than nibbling shrubbery or knocking over a fence,  most homeowners don't have to worry about deer doing damage to their homes.  (Although I did hear about one buck who crashed through the door of a furniture store to tear up a row of sofas.) However, they've been known to damage or total a vehicle if you happen to hit one on the road.  Fortunately, vehicular damage caused in this way is covered by your auto policy, providing you carry comprehensive coverage.  If you only carry the minimum coverage required by the state, you'll have to pay to repair or replace your vehicle out of pocket.  Comprehensive coverage also pays for damage to your vehicle caused by theft, fire, and vandalism.

Image courtesy Pxhere

Hogs gone wild! A 2020 report about wild hogs tearing up property in Palm Coast and Tampa painted a picture of torn up lawns, destroyed landscaping, and exposed wires caused by hogs rooting around for food in suburbia.  One homeowner even reported that he and his dog were menaced by boars while walking in front of his home.  Not only can this kind of hog havoc result in property damage, but due to state regulations, homeowners are prohibited from killing wild swine.  Even trapping wild pigs requires that they be released back in the wild provided the trapper acquires the permission of the landowners where they are released.  

Bad cat?  Florida panthers come equipped with sharp teeth and claws that can inflict serious damage to property, pets, and people.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that I have yet to discover a damage claim caused by one.  Fortunately, the big wildcats are rare and elusive. They prefer live prey, which means they aren't enticed by garbage cans as bears, raccoons, and rats are.  Panthers are more likely to be hit by vehicles while crossing a road than they are to prowl residential neighborhoods.

Damage done by smaller pests like rats, bats, raccoons, skunks, and squirrels generally aren't covered under a homeowner's policy, since these intrusions are considered preventable.  Also excluded is infestation caused by insects, birds, or vermin.  

Even if the damage caused by a wild animal to an attic, garage, or garden shed is covered by insurance, damage to items kept inside them isn't typically covered.  That's because most homeowner's policies limit the coverage caused by wild animals to the structure alone.

If a wild animal decides to move into your attic, detached garage, or shed, don't expect the insurance company to cover the cost of removing the animal or cleaning up after it.  Pest control isn't covered by homeowner's insurance.

Image courtesy Pxhere

Homeowner's policies typically exclude damage caused by pets, even if the "pet" is a barnyard animal like a chicken, cow or pig.  Exotic pets are usually excluded even from injuries caused to people unless you obtain a rider or exotic pet policy.

The best way to prevent wild animal damage to your property is to install fencing and to make sure your home, detached garage, and garden shed are well secured against intrusion by wild animals.  Make sure your trash cans have locking lids that aren't easy for hungry animals to pry open.  Before you file any claim for property damage caused by wildlife, take the time to total the cost and consider your coverage limit and deductible before you contact your insurance company.  

If you're in the least bit concerned about what is and isn't covered by your policy when it comes to wild animals, I urge you to call your agent before you have to deal with the call of the wild.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/

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