Chris Fitzgerald, owner and operator of Critter Getter Pest Control and Wildlife Services, established his company after finding himself at a crossroads. Years later, he’s carved out a niche in wildlife control, and has his family involved in the business.
|A captured bobcat. Photo courtesy of Critter Getter Pest Control and Wildlife Services.
It’s a Thursday morning, and Chris Fitzgerald has an appointment lined up for later in the day. A small family of bobcats has taken up residence at a local resort, where Fitzgerald said the wild critters have been harassing guests. It’s not an unusual call for Critter Getter Pest Control and Wildlife Services, Phoenix, Ariz.
“We do general pest control, and we’re on the wildlife side of things,” he said. “Snakes, raccoons, bobcats. You name it, we’ll nab it.”
Critter Getter was established in 1998, after a small pest control firm Fitzgerald was working for at the time was sold to Terminix. Fitzgerald decided he had three options: work for the large corporation, look for a new career or start his own business. The decision made itself.
Getting Started. As Critter Getter was finding its legs, the company focused on insect pests, but soon worked its way into dealing with “four-legged and furry critters,” Fitzgerald said. After attending several seminars, classes and lessons on wildlife control, Critter Getter became firmly entrenched in the community as the go-to firm for wildlife control. In fact, when other pest control firms in the area are contacted about a wildlife issue, Fitzgerald said they often refer their customers to Critter Getter.
“Not very many companies do it,” he said. “A lot of pest control companies in the area will refer those kinds of calls to us. Then our competitors will continue to take care of those customers — we don’t solicit or interrupt (their business). So we have some really good relationships with other companies throughout the (region).”
Those relationships are part of the joy of being in the industry and owning a business, Fitzgerald said. When he got into pest control as a service technician in 1994, he said he never imagined making a career of it — it was a second job he sought out in need of extra money. A passion quickly developed. “I really enjoy helping people resolve their pest control issues. I learned all I could regarding insects and the industry, and I had a deep passion for it and turned it into a career. I’m able to do something I enjoy and love on a daily basis, and I consider myself very lucky.”
Critter Getter handles its wildlife operations in as humane a manner as possible, Fitzgerald said. The company practices humane relocation — technicians will attempt to trap the animal in a cage and release or relocate it. Fitzgerald said oftentimes, animals caught on the job are taken to the Southwest Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Scottsdale, Ariz., where they will be conditioned for the wild.
A Family Business. Though they are young, Critter Getter is something Fitzgerald said he is hoping to pass along to his children. Ashton Fitzgerald, 8, is Chris’s son, and often tags along on calls when not busy with school. “He doesn’t like the office side of things too much, but he does like getting out into the field,” Fitzgerald said.
|Chris Fitzgerald and his eight-year-old son, Ashton, ready to tackle some pests.
“He’s always out with a magnifying glass and a shovel, looking for critters. It’s something he really enjoys. It’s gratifying for me to see he enjoys that type of work, and just being a boy, he likes to chase snakes, frogs, he’s not afraid to dive in and get into something.”
Chris’s wife, Susan, is the office manager, and his daughter, Gracie, 3, is just beginning to get her hands dirty. “(Gracie) hasn’t really grasped the whole concept yet,” Fitzgerald said. “She likes checking out critters, she likes looking at bugs. She calls everything a ‘fly.’ She points to the ground and it might be a cricket hopping across, and she says ‘A fly!’”
In all, Critter Getter has six employees, with one full-time wildlife technician in the field. As the owner, Fitzgerald splits time between managing the service technicians and getting out into the field, assisting his technicians and troubleshooting sticky situations.
“We are a growing company,” he said. “Unfortunately going through some of those growing pains isn’t always fun, but it’s a part of the process. We’re looking forward to being a big company.”
The author is associate editor of PCT magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.