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Possibly an animal in my water heater vent going to the chimney.

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I ws working in the basement when I heard some scratching coming from the vent from my water heater. It definitely sounds as if there is something in there.

Does this go all the way up the chimney? If so, is the possibility for the animal to escape the way it came in pretty impossible?

Does that only leave the opening nearest the water heater for it to escape? If it dies in there will I need to contact someone, how can I prevent it from happening again and who should I call to inspect the pipe/vent, chimney opening, and/or Is there one person I can call that would handle all of those issues?

My fear. Is something fell down the vent from the chimney on the roof and they are stuck, being slowly poisoned and will slowly die, causing an odor eventually, potentially clogging the vent causing co2 discharge in the house and my office. Are these valid concerns?

I don't want to open the vent to dispose of a dead sick diseased animal nor do I want to be bitten by an animal who's hungry and been cornered for a few days. Suggestions?
asked in Gas Water Heater by mguzaski (120 points)
edited by darekrudy
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1 Answer

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Hi Mguzaski,
Sometimes it is just a wind causing noises inside the chimney / vent pipe. There’s also a piece of metal (baffle) hanging inside the water heater, a few inches below the spot where the vent pipe starts.
This piece of metal expands when exposed to heat from the WH burning chamber and contracts when the burner goes off. This occasionally creates scratching noises as well. 
The vent pipe from your water heater might continue through the roof as a single pipe / nothing else connected to it. It may also be a short connector between the water heater and a chimney serving other appliances as well, there are a few possibilities.
Open gap above the water heater and the top of the chimney are the only ways out if you have a single vent pipe / chimney, there might be more “escape” ways if there are other appliances connected to the same chimney.
If there’s something inside, a bird or rodent that has accidently fallen into the flue pipe… I don’t think it will be able to climb up the flue / it needs to be removed. I’ve also seen small birds at the bottom of the water heater’s burner chamber because once inside the chimney they get poisoned with Carbon Monoxide and fall through the center hole of the WH tank. 
To prevent it from ever happening again (if this is the case) you have to make sure that there’s a protective screen and a cap on top of the chimney.
You can call a plumber, chimney sweep company, or a heating contractor for help (first two are probably the best choice).
You should also make sure that you have a functional and properly installed Carbon Monoxide detector .
answered by darekrudy (21,730 points)