Worcester Telegram & Gazette - July 24, 2006

Column: ON THE JOB

What do you do?

"Our job is to solve problems between wildlife and humans, anything where wildlife interacts with humans and becomes a problem. It could be a raccoon living in the chimney, birds in the attic, squirrels, snakes."

How did you get into this field?

"I was a fur trapper, and I had the knowledge and equipment. I started off doing extra jobs for friends, and it ended up being a separate business, a lucrative business."

Is there a lot of interaction between humans and wildlife in the city, compared with the suburbs and rural areas?

"Urban wildlife has evolved to live closer to humans, and to feed off us. Where the human population is dense, the animal population will be dense. The big difference is that there are more animals in a tighter-knit area. In the suburbs, if I'm dealing with squirrels in a house, I'm probably dealing with five to 10 squirrels. In the city, it's probably going to be 15 to 20 squirrels. They learn to overlap their territory, just like humans learn to live closer together in the city. Birds tend to poke into the houses in the city, and in the country they're more likely to stay in the woods. ... Deer are destroying the gardens on Flagg Street (in Worcester). Nobody hunts them there."

What's the most unusual animal you've been called to remove?

"We do a lot of domestic pet rescues. One of the most oddball ones we've done is the rescue of a 10-foot ball python that escaped. We do carcass removal. We're one of a few that will remove animals that are deceased in large numbers. People that collect cats, that kind of deal. We've done 34 cats out of a house, 20 dogs out of a house. We get some odd ones, porcupines out of a house. If we did one porcupine every three or four years, it was a big thing. Now, we're doing them yearly. The farmers call because they're in the sweet corn, or in the apple orchard, destroying it. Strawberry farmers call us for raccoons."

Is your business regulated by the state?

"I believe we're one of most highly regulated companies because of the trapping laws. We hold multiple permits for moving animals, euthanizing animals. If it's endangered wildlife, we have to go through another kind of permit. The state Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Massachusetts Humane Society are constantly monitoring us."

Do you make sure that the animals are handled humanely and not unnecessarily euthanized?

"Yes. That's one thing my family's proud of. Even through we're hunters, trappers and fishermen, we're conservationists. We believe in trying to solve as many problems as we can, but we don't want to destroy an animal if we don't have to. We'll do everything we can to save the animal any undue stress. We'd rather remove the animal and let it go. It will go somewhere else. The animals are our first concern. There are times we'll refuse to do a job we don't feel needs to be done. Someone sees a coyote in their backyard and wants it removed. In the summer the coyotes are constantly moving. Just because it's cutting through the yard doesn't mean we need to remove him. A raccoon is raiding the bird feeder. Just let the feeder go dry and let him go on to another restaurant. A lot of homeowners want things done because they don't want any wildlife around. When it comes to jobs like that, we'll skip by them. I was talking with a guy who had two snakes get loose in his barbershop and! got into the tanning salon next door. The woman running it said it's staying closed until they're gone. As much as you tell them it's OK, don't panic, some will. The bat in the bedroom - we'll do calls at 2 in the morning. We try to tell them it can wait, and they say it can't. If it's a lady, we'll go. They don't need the stress. They don't understand there's no need to panic, but because of myths, they panic. It's the nature of the beast."

What's the hardest animal to handle? People seem to think it would be a skunk.

"Skunks are our favorite. We'll do a couple hundred a year. Last year I caught 19 by hand, just picking them up. So, skunks for us are no problem. Flying squirrels are one of the hardest. They're the size of a chipmunk, and they move at night. The hole they get into is the size of a quarter. You've got to find the hole they're getting into. They're colonized, so it's not unusual to pull 20 to 40 out. It's time-consuming. When we set a trap, we check it every 24 hours."

What is the best part of your job?

"Working with family. To think that we're helping wildlife. We work for ourselves, and pick and choose what jobs to do, and work as a family. My grandson, Sammy, is 20 months old, and the other day I saw him with his finger in a mouse trap. I saw potential in the boy right away."

What's the worst part?

"The long hours. When we get real busy, I'll go four or five days without seeing my wife. That and driving. High gas prices and traffic. All the driving is one of the hardest parts."

What have you learned from this job?

"The biggest thing I've learned is patience. People in today's society want things over then and there. People don't realize that trapping is not an exact science. It takes a lot of patience to get problems solved. You become part detective to see what's going on. The new school coming up have different ways of doing things. It's not good to get too set in your ways. My son has new ways of doing things, and sometimes they're better ways that are worth doing. I've studied wildlife since I was a kid. It was my passion. My family has been around animals their whole lives. You need to learn how buildings are constructed, and you have to know what's inside a wall, or how firewalls work."

Compiled by: Business reporter Martin Luttrell

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