While the lion’s share of the pest management industry relates to pests of the six-legged variety, many pest control firms offer various types of wildlife control. How do you decide if adding wildlife control as an add-on service is right for you and how do you make it successful?
Take some advice from one of the industry’s leading authorities on wildlife control: Scott McNeely, president of McNeely Pest Control, Winston-Salem, N.C. McNeely, who has years of wildlife control experience under his belt, shared some tips and success strategies for offering wildlife control at PCT’s Profit Boosters Virtual Conference.
Wildlife control is not something to dive head-first into without some serious thought. McNeely recommended “starting small.” A key to finding success in this sort of venture is to take stock of the different aspects of your company, your business environment and other factors. Some major points to think about when considering adding wildlife control services are:
Complimentary Services. Certain services you already offer can help you decide whether or not to add wildlife control, McNeely said. Do you perform vent work, gutter cleaning, crawlspace insulation? If so, wildlife control might be a good fit. For instance, some tools you use for these jobs, such as ladders, power tools, etc., could be useful in performing wildlife work.
Opportunities. The number of different critters that fall into the “wildlife control” category is virtually endless. From relatively innocuous pests like moles and chipmunks to coyotes, bears and alligators, the list goes on and on. Which species are present in your market? Which species might be an easy one to start offering services?
“One of the biggest mistakes folks make is trying to be all things to all people,” McNeely said. Take the time to learn a few “entry-level” species for breaking into the wildlife market. For many critters, the control method consists of simply trapping — and that can be an easy add-on, particularly for an existing client, McNeely said.
Conversely, some wildlife control jobs take considerably more nuance and expertise. Bats, for instance, will require “more of a knowledge base about bat biology and exclusion,” McNeely said. Also, when dealing with bats, it’s recommended that you have your technicians be immunized for pre-exposure rabies.
Bird control is another segment to consider. However, the size of bird control jobs can vary wildly and pricing these jobs can be a challenge. McNeely said that bird control product suppliers and manufacturers are wonderful resources for support.
Areas of Expertise. You may have staff that is a great fit for this line of work, including experienced hunters, trappers and fishermen. Others might enjoy carpentry or masonry. Those skill sets have the potential to transfer nicely into the realm of wildlife control, McNeely said.
Dead animal removal is a service that PCOs should consider adding; however, like other potential offerings, it may not be for everyone. Skunk removal is another. “Smells like money,” McNeely says, but there can be a host of issues associated with controlling the infamously odorous mammal. You’ll need to be prepared to deal with situations that might require odor remediation, for instance.
And more than just helping with removal of the actual critter in question, some of your staff’s skills might help render a wildlife control job even more lucrative. McNeely gave the example of a groundhog removal job at a client’s cabin. The groundhogs had been getting inside the cabin’s crawlspace due to the doors being in a state of disrepair. Maximizing this opportunity, McNeely turned a $200 trapping job into a $900 repair job by fixing the doors and installing new thresholds — a long-term solution to a problem with which the client was extremely satisfied.
Training, Costs and Manpower. If you’re simply looking into offering trapping services, there can be minimal start-up costs involved, but by that same token, don’t go cheap. “With cheap traps, you’ll lose an animal, and losing animals is losing money,” McNeely said. His firm buys the heaviest cages available, and he recommends others do the same as well.
Lots of other equipment may become necessary — pads to prevent damage from ladders on house siding, foam guns for exclusion work, mesh wire, and more — but McNeely said labor is one of the biggest expenses. More complicated and larger jobs will take substantial time.
Also, training is critical. Your wildlife technicians will need to be very familiar with laws and regulations dictating what can and can’t be done with any critters in question. For instance, certain animal species cannot by law be relocated, which creates the need to euthanize animals, in some cases. (McNeely Pest Control has an in-house euthanization chamber.) In these cases, you’ll need to be intimately familiar with the law to ensure no violations.
McNeely also recommended taking advantage of industry groups, books and other resources. The National Pest Management Association, the National Wildlife Control Operators Association, the National Trappers Association, and state trapping associations can be good sources of information for dealing with certain animals.
Expertise in these areas will also come with experience. As your wildlife control offerings expand, you’ll be armed with the knowledge picked up along the way. Larger and more complicated jobs may not be in sight right away, but when they are, they can prove to be some of the most lucrative, McNeely said. And, when all of these things come together — well-trained people, reliable tools and expertise — you’ll be able to efficiently and safely perform wildlife work, and that will maximize your revenue.
Marketing. As with any service, you’ll need to market your wildlife control offerings. McNeely recommends targeting existing clientele and making your wildlife offerings known. But go beyond these efforts. McNeely’s company advertises on its vehicles, its website and at home shows. Referrals, as always, are a major source of new leads. Additionally, McNeely said leads can potentially come from local law enforcement. Often, if a person discovers a wild animal in their yard, for instance, their immediate instinct is to call police. This can result in a call to you if you’re on good terms with the department.
The Bottom Line. If you’re looking to break into the wildlife control market, McNeely recommends starting small and expanding gradually. Make decisions based on your market, your level of expertise and your areas of interest. With the right training and preparation, it can be a profitable venture for you and your business.
The author is a graduate of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and former PCT associate editor.