Here’s why hiring bird and wildlife management professionals is different than hiring those who primarily control insects.
Small mammals and birds can wreak havoc on homes and businesses. It may seem like wildlife and bird management is a natural extension of pest management — but this work is not for everyone. Dealing with wildlife and birds can be a sensitive topic rife with public relations impacts, so any business looking to pursue these lines of service should consider a number of key traits and training requirements for its personnel.
Identifying a qualified candidate to fill a bird or wildlife management role takes more than just finding someone who can do the physical work. The right candidate must be comfortable working with animals and very safety-minded. This is not just for the safety of employees and the public, but also for the welfare of the animals. It can be difficult to gauge how comfortable and humane a candidate is with animals without seeing them in action. If you can’t have a skilled wildlife expert conducting interviews, consider consulting with one to develop questions and a range of appropriate responses that fit with the services you offer.
Wildlife is anything but predictable, so the best candidates for a wildlife and bird management position must be able to think on their feet and develop creative solutions, all while keeping personal safety and animal welfare in mind. Wildlife management technicians often must assess complicated situations that require climbing, trapping or other squirrely logistics (pun intended), so being mechanically inclined is a must-have skill that goes hand-in-hand with this problem solving aptitude.
Traits to look for when hiring a wildlife & bird management professional
1) Mechanically inclined
2) Comfortable with wildlife
3) Good work ethic
4) Safety conscious
5) Creative thinker/problem solver
6) Excellent communicator
7) Sensitive about wildlife and public perception of wildlife
Minimum training/knowledge requirements for wildlife & bird management professionals
1) All state/provincial required licenses
2) Expert understanding of wildlife and bird biology
3) Knowledge of all federal/state/provincial bird protection laws
4) Fall protection training (ladders, platforms and fall arrest)
5) OSHA health and safety training
6) Training on proper installation of bird exclusion materials and using wildlife traps
7) Animal welfare and humane capture/treatment training
8) Public relations training
Wildlife and bird management positions require a sticky, delicate balance: the best candidates will care about animal welfare, know the dangers animals can pose and understand that the public at large is generally very sensitive to how animals are treated. The public’s perception of birds and wildlife is different than its view of other types of pests. The public often sees wildlife — squirrels, raccoons and birds — as cuddly or beautiful. Hiring individuals who understand this perception is important to ensure that the best interests of both the animals and the public are always at the forefront of any decisions made.
People working with birds and wildlife must be able to convey sensitive messages, both verbally and in writing, to their clients, regulatory agencies and potentially other members of the public who are nearby. With today’s “always on” media — from news outlets to the bystander shooting video on their mobile phone — it is essential that wildlife and bird management candidates have an acute awareness of their surroundings and how to handle any potential public relations situations. All this, and we haven’t even gotten to training yet!
These positions require specialized training that goes beyond that needed for ordinary pest management. First, to legally conduct wildlife and bird management services, many states and provinces require individuals to hold special licenses. These licenses may require individuals to complete specific training courses and exams. Consult with your local pest management authority or state department of agriculture to obtain a list of your area’s required licenses.
As part of this license training, or separately depending on the jurisdiction, those working with birds and wildlife should be well-versed in federal/state/provincial bird and wildlife protection laws, and have completed a course on animal welfare. They should have an expert understanding of biology of the animals/birds they may encounter, as it plays a major role in how animals behave, and thus, their management.
Protecting the health and welfare of employees performing this work should be paramount. In addition to Occupational Safety and Health Administration required training, you should consider putting anyone working with wildlife and birds through fall protection training, since the job often requires working at heights. Wildlife presents its own unique set of dangers, many of which can open a technician up to the threat of diseases, such as histoplasmosis or rabies. You may also want to consider requiring these employees to have vaccinations or periodic health exams.
Other training on the tools of the trade is also important. Knowing when, where and how to use these tools ensures the welfare of both personnel and animals, preventing injury and increasing the likelihood of a successful program. Vendors that sell these tools/equipment often offer training.
No program is complete without public relations training...which brings us right back to where we started. The public is extremely sensitive to how animals are treated, and conducting any type of bird or wildlife management service increases the risk of a public relations incident for your business. Arming your staff members with public relations training and awareness mitigates that risk. There are many industry consultants that offer this type of training for a nominal fee.
When it comes to wildlife and bird management services, your best tools are the people you choose to perform the work. The checklist on page 90 recaps many of the skills and training requirements discussed in this article and may be useful for you as you consider candidates. A careful selection, hiring and training process will ensure that these lines of service remain lucrative for your business for a long time to come.
The author is vice president, North American Bird Program, The Steritech Group, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.