Choosing a Career in Wildlife Damage Control
I had been asked for information on this career by a Vocational Career Counselor. WCC hopes to help career counselors to understand more about this occupation.
- Trappers are normally fur trappers. Trappers are people who seek animals for their fur. This occupation is usually a hobby or a part time business except for a few individuals.
- Animal damage controllers, wildlife control operators, nuisance wildlife control operators, wildlife controllers by contrast are people paid by customers to remove problem animals. While there is overlap between these two jobs, (as people can do both and often do) they are in many respects different. Animal damagecontrollers work year round. Fur trappers work in the fall and winter.
- Pest Control is a different industry. Pest control deals primarily with bugs, mice and rats and often use pesticides. Animal damage controllers, by contrast, rarely use pesticides and handle wildlife such as squirrels, skunks, raccoons, moles, voles, beaver, etc.
Key Facts about Animal Damage Control
Most animal damage controllers are self-employed. They tend to be a very independent bunch and don’t like working for others. However, some of the larger companies do hire workers. While not many have reached this size, the industry is maturing and so the opportunities for employment are growing.
Normally, these companies are contracted by the customer for a specific problem, ie. squirrels in attic. The relationship ends when the problem is resolved. Sort of like the way people hire a plumber to fix a leak. You pay for the service and the plumbler leaves when the problem is resolved.
Legal Issues for Wildlife Controllers
Most states require a license. These licenses will be issued through the state’s division of fisheries and wildlife or similar sounding agency. Wildlife control is a controversial issue. Potential workers need to understand that humane issues are a prime concern. Failure to follow standard procedures can result in severe legal and publicity problems. The field is still lacking many regulations so entry into the field is relatively easy.
- Physically demanding. Success in this field will require walking, climbing ladders, scaling roofs, crawling under buildings and into attics. If you cannot lift 80 pounds or more comfortably, you would not be able to work with ladders. Animals can weigh anywhere from 2 pounds for a gray squirrel to 20 pounds with a raccoon to 50 pounds for a beaver. While the weight doesn’t appear to be that high, remember, you will need to carry the trap away from your body which causes the weight to feel heavier due to reduced leverage.
Carrying caged animals off roofs adds to the danger as the animal will run back and forth in the cage thereby shifting the weight of the cage. Failure to prepare for the change can cause a catastrophic fall off the ladder.
- Dangerous: Job exposes the worker to dangers from animals, heights and crawl spaces. Exposure to zoonotic diseases is a real risk.
- Methodical: Workers need to perform similar tasks with consistent accuracy and thoroughness.
Responsible: Workers will need to remember where traps have been set. In some cases, dozens of traps located around a city will need to be remembered and checked daily no matter what the weather.
- Driver’s license: Worker will need to be able to operate a light to heavy truck safely while under time pressure.
- Customer Relations: Workers will be required to have high customer service skills. Work is often done inside homes with customers watching. Phone skills is a definite must.
- Ability to work without supervision. Work is often lonely and without supervision of a boss or client.
Opportunities for Training
National Wildlife Control Training Program. I am the primary author for this training published by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Cornell University.
I have published the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, rev. ed. The third edition is expected by March, 2011.
Wildlife Control Technology Magazine. This is the trade magazine of the industry.
Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators Assoc. This is the trade association of the industry.
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesistate to ask.
About Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP
Stephen is a Certified Wildlife Control Operator who is nationally known for his writing on wildlife damage management topics. He can be reached at stephenvantassel(at)hotmailDOTcom