[Tech Talk] For Effective Nuisance Wildlife Control — Be Prepared

Columns - Technically Speaking

August 26, 2011
Scott McNeely

If your company specializes in nuisance wildlife control or is about to add that to your service menu, you obviously must have and utilize the right equipment for the right job — and you must have the expertise to handle wildlife jobs effectively and properly. With appropriate knowledge, proper training and planning, you will maximize your efforts by being readily prepared for the complexities involved in wildlife control.

First, it's important to consider seasonality in anticipating your service needs and planning your marketing strategies. In the spring and early summer, for example, there's a great deal of squirrel activity. Raccoons are possible invaders of structures into attic spaces, crawlspaces and chimneys. Groundhogs can find your customers' gardens quite attractive. Bat colonies are often established in the attics of homes and businesses.

In October and November, you'll probably see snakes, mice, rats and more squirrels moving about in considerable numbers.

In many situations, you must remove offending wildlife pests that have invaded your customers' homes or businesses. That means effective use of trapping devices is required to solve a problem. In order to do so, you need to have a good working knowledge of the various types of trapping devices that are available, and you need to know when to use the appropriate type of trap. Furthermore, you must also know your local, state and federal regulations governing the use of trapping devices and removal of wildlife in your area.

What follows is a discussion of several commony used urban wildlife trapping devices and some of their typical uses.

Cage traps, designed to capture and hold one or several animals. These usually have a hinged door that closes when an animal depresses a raised pan that is a triggering mechanism. Utilizing a properly sized trap in good working order for the target animal species is key. An animal may escape from an improperly sized trap or from one that doesn't work well. Many brands of cage traps can be purchased at various prices, but investing more money in quality cage traps that work efficiently and "hold up" over a long period of time may be the least expensive route for your company in the long run.

One-way door or excluder traps, often used above den or building entrances to allow animals to exit a structure without re-entering, or to trap the exiting animal after it pushes up the excluder door to exit. These can be excellent control devices for removing multiple tree and flying squirrels from the attic spaces of homes.

Foothold traps, often used for the removal of muskrats and beavers. One style of this type of trap is known as the "egg-type" trap, manufactured specifically for capturing raccoons. This trap requires the animal to reach down into a baited trap. Its design eliminates the potential for capturing domestic pets and may have some application in addressing specific raccoon concerns. There is also a depression pan foothold trap available that incorporates the use of a snare loop instead of a conventional steel jaw-type configuration. There are many different types of this trap, but in many states its use is no longer legal or closely regulated. Several keys to successfully using these traps include making sure you have the proper size trap in good working order, as well as using an appropriate anchoring device. Additionally, be sure to set the foothold traps in locations that will minimize the undesirable possibility of capturing domestic pets or other non-target wildlife.

Body-gripping type traps, designed to deliver a killing blow to an animal as it passes through the trap opening. In certain situations these traps, which are available in several brands and styles, can be efficient in removing offending animals, such as raccoons or ground hogs, from structures. They also can be effective when used for the removal of beavers and muskrats.

Snares, simple and lightweight trapping devices that can be effective in capturing a wide variety of critters. Typically made from lightweight aircraft cable, modern snares have a relaxing or locking slide that is used to form a loop of an appropriate size for the targeted animal species to pass through. As the animal steps through the wire loop that has been set on a travel path of the animal, the loop tightens and restrains the animal. In North Carolina, my home state, the use of snares is restricted to trapping and removal of beavers.

Bat cones, exclusion devices designed to allow bats to exit a structure and prevent them from returning.

Snap traps, which have been used extensively in our industry for mouse and rat removal. Even though rat-size snap traps can be used to capture flying squirrels and some species of tree squirrels, I strongly suggest concentrating on exclusion and using non-lethal traps whenever possible to solve these concerns. When providing wildlife removal services, one should be aware that many calls complaining about squirrels in an attic result in finding rodents, too. In these cases, snap traps can be useful rodent population reduction/control tools that will allow recovery of trapped animals. By using snap traps initially on a site prior to the use of a rodenticide, the likelihood of responding to a call of a "dead animal smell" is greatly reduced.

Glueboards, effective in removing snakes and lizards from structures. Snakes or lizards that have been trapped on glueboards can often be removed for relocation by applying cooking oil around the trapped animal and slowly working the animal free from the glue. In my opinion, the use of the sticky-type glueboards is not effective for the removal of tree or flying squirrels from structures, and they should not be used for this purpose.

Final Thoughts. Whatever the wild critter you've targeted, always use good judgment when you determine when and where to use a specific trapping device. For example, you can often secure small cage traps on gutter lines by placing a lightweight bungee cord around a gutter nail. Larger cage traps can be secured to plyboard when placed on roofs to prevent roof damage and trap rollover. Remember that your main objectives are to solve wildlife problems for your customers and generate income for yourself and your company. It is always a good idea to follow the Boy Scout motto and "be prepared." Make sure you've got ladders, tin snips, spray adhesive tape and expanding foam sealers, such as Purafil, readily available. And be sure to have an adequate number of trapping devices to get the job done.


Scott McNeely is president of McNeely Pest Control, Winston Salem, N.C. A member of the Copesan Services Technical Committee, McNeely has served on the board of the NC Pest Management Association, is a member of the Entomological Society of America, and is a NC Wildlife Damage Control Agent.

Copesan is an alliance of pest management companies with locations throughout North America. To learn more, visit www.copesan.com.