Dennis Mastrolia says his wildlife control business has grown from about 5 percent of his business to 25 or 30 percent over just the past couple of years. The owner of Dennis the Mennis Pest Control in Boston, Mass., attributes this amazing level of growth to marketing — more specifically, to the redesign of his website, which now prominently features wildlife images. And while marketing can certainly influence the type of business a pest management company attracts, there also has to be activity. No problem there, say PMPs across the country: Nuisance wildlife activity is as strong and demanding as it’s ever been.
About half, 48 percent, of the PMPs who participated in this year’s PCT State of the Wildlife Control Market study say they offer wildlife control services. Of these, 95 percent report that the incidence of wildlife control problems has increased or remained steady over the past year. Half say that wildlife work has become a more significant portion of their business over the past five years. (This represents an 11 percent rise over 2019 responses, when 39 percent reported the same.) And 96 percent expect wildlife control revenues to represent a steady or growing portion of their overall service revenues in 2020.
“We count on wildlife work to be steady year after year,” says Jerry Swoboda of Swoboda Pest & Termite Control in Bryan, Texas. “Some of the activity is related to the weather — we get a lot of snake calls after heavy rains, for example. But we’re also a college town, so anytime students are moving in and out, we get calls for squirrels in attics and opossums under buildings. We service a lot of rental properties, so we see plenty of wildlife activity brought on by tenant negligence.”
While the type of wildlife encountered by PMPs is very much dependent on geography and weather conditions, squirrels and raccoons are the most commonly controlled animals in the country. Of the top dozen nuisance pests, bats, moles, raccoons, squirrels and birds are considered the most difficult to manage.
For bats, the most challenging issue is often their protected-species status, which limits the times of year they can be controlled. When customers call with bat issues during the maternity season, there’s little a pest control company can do.
“If we get a call for bats in the spring, we have to educate the customer about why we can’t touch them until September,” says Mastrolia. “It’s not what they want to hear, but when we explain that we would never want to exclude an adult and leave the minors there to die, they begin to understand.”
Keith Birkemeyer of ProBest Pest Management in Phoenix, Ariz., says that it’s important not only to avoid maternity season but also to do bat work at the right time of day. “When you’re excluding bats from a building, you need to be careful not to seal them in. That means waiting until they’ve left their roosts for the night.”
For some bat issues, one night isn’t enough to get the job done, Birkemeyer adds. “We did one bat job, for a large motel that had aluminum windows protected by an archway of brick. There was a gap allowing bats to come and go. We waited until they headed south, and then we excluded the windows. It took us a month-and-a-half to finish, but we’ve had no callbacks. When bats come back and see that there’s no longer a way in, they move on to find another home.”
Mastrolia says that communicating the rationale behind the timing and the methodology you’re using is essential to building a solid relationship with your customer. “Customers want their issues to be resolved immediately, but it’s not always that easy with wildlife,” he shares.