Yes, I know it is a strange title for a blog post. But what I mean by tactics for identifying difficult identifications is how do you go about identifying a vertebrate pest complaint when the normal clues are absent? Say the client is complaining about thumping or scratching noises in the wall or attic. You arrive, and can’t find any sign of an animal cause of the problem. You don’t see scat, scratch marks, nesting, trails, holes, nothing. Yet the client swears to that the problem exists and it is an animal? What do you do?
Let me tell you what not to do. Don’t jump to delusional parasitosis. While that diagnosis may prove out in the end, you have a long way to go before you reach the conclusion that the issue is a figment of the client’s overactive imagination.
Here are some of the steps you should take when you can’t match the client’s complaints with the available evidence you can see. Choose the ones that fit your situation.
- Movement indicators. If you find holes, gaps that could allow animals to enter, use movement indicators to tell you whether those gaps/holes are being used.
- Track traps. Create track traps using bait and flour, talc, baby powder or orange line chalk to see if any animals are consuming the bait. Keep in mind that flour will attract insects and rats. So use carefully.
- Trail cameras. Choose models that use black-out technology and have good shutter speeds as in less than a second.
- Set traps. Traps can be placed, either set or unset, but baited to see if anything approaches the traps.
- Enlist client’s help. Have the client record when/where sounds are being heard. Have the client ask neighbors if they have seen any wildlife on the house.
- Contact a colleague. Explain the situation to a trusted colleague. He/she may be able to help you consider possible causes that you haven’t thought of. This is one advantage of being part of trade associations like the National Wildlife Control Operators Association of which I am a founding member and a board member.
Thankfully, difficult identifications get rarer as you gain experience and knowledge. One way to speed up your learning process is to read books to help you in the identification process such as The Wildlife Damage Inspect Handbook, 3rd ed. But when they do come, having a plan of action will help you resolve the situation for your client in a speedy and cost effective way.Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACE, is the owner of Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. He helps people restore their balance with nature through publishing, training, consulting, and the internet. He has published numerous articles in trade and academic publications along with several books (http://kingsdivinity.academia.edu/StephenMVantassel). He is a sought after speaker and trainer. Copyright All postings are the property of Stephen M. Vantassel and Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. Text (not images) may be reprinted in non-profit publications provided that the author and website URL is included. If images wish to be used, explicit and written permission must be obtained from Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC.