Hiring employees in a tight job market is a challenge. Even harder: finding people in a tight market who also are a good fit for your wildlife control service.
Like general pest and termite technicians, the best wildlife employees are curious problem solvers and committed to customer service.
They also have a few other important traits, said pest management professionals. “You can’t be afraid of ladders; you can’t be afraid of getting on roofs,” said Kevin Hudson, who manages wildlife control services at Advanced Services in Augusta, Ga.
That’s because much of this work involves caulking roofline gaps, screening off high-up roosting areas and gable vents, and sealing entry points that allow critters into attics.
“A lot of pest control technicians and termite technicians, they’re used to working on the ground. It’s a totally different breed of individual that’s working up off a ladder for the majority of the day,” said Joseph Edwards, president, North Fulton Pest Solutions, Alpharetta, Ga.
“In most cases if somebody doesn’t already have wildlife experience, we’re better off training individuals who at least have some type of ladder experience. Maybe they’ve been in the roofing industry or the gutter industry; something of that nature,” he said.
The wildlife technicians at Terminix in Dallas are outdoorsmen, said Branch Manager Greg Johnson, who grew up hunting and fishing and still enjoys these activities.
“I know wildlife a little more and a decent part of my staff has that same background,” he said. This experience helps when it comes to managing most animals, except perhaps snakes and armadillos which aren’t so easy to trap, he said.
Likewise, the best wildlife technicians at Clegg’s Pest Control in Durham, N.C., have a background in trapping, a disappearing skill they gained from their fathers or grandfathers, said Phil Clegg Jr., the company’s vice president. “They learned the habits of these animals and how to circumvent these habits,” he said.
Hudson said good wildlife technicians are able to recognize in advance the type of special equipment needed for a job, such as a lift to reach a high peak on a house, so those costs can be built into the job estimate.
“You’ve got to have mechanical ability,” as well, he said. That includes knowing how to handle a drill or to screw in hardware cloth, and “also having the eye to say, ‘Is this aesthetically pleasing or does this look like an ugly patch job?’” said Hudson.
Having proper licensing is a must. Most employees don’t have a Georgia wildlife nuisance trapping license before joining Advanced Services. “It’s something we help them achieve and part of our continuing education within the company,” said Hudson, who holds study sessions for employees before this exam.
“I cram them on the test. They have to go take the test, pass the test with an 80 or above in order to do this work,” he said.
At American City Pest & Termite in Los Angeles, the more experienced pest technicians generally perform live animal trapping because this license from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is one of the last ones they earn (following several structural pest and agricultural licenses). “It doesn’t have to be that way; it’s just kind of a natural progression,” said Operations Manager Greg Bausch.
Having certified wildlife professionals is key in marketing this service, reported 37 percent of PMPs in the PCT 2019 State of the Wildlife Control Market survey, which was sponsored by Univar Solutions and conducted by independent market research firm Readex Research.
Providing ongoing training and education, however, can be a challenge. In fact, employees’ lack of knowledge of wildlife pests was the number one challenge for companies offering this service, cited 15 percent of PMPs in the survey.
“Just trying to stay on top of things; that may be the biggest threat for us, just internally,” said Hudson, whose staff tries to attend wildlife expos and conferences to stay current with new products and control approaches. “Just like with pest control, I think you can’t put yourself in a box with wildlife. You have to think outside of the box,” he said.
Clegg’s employees get training through the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, online courses and by attending industry meetings.
Safety training is a major focus. “You’ve got to be able to handle and follow and use your PPE (personal protective equipment). You’ve got to be safe when we do it,” reminded Hudson.
That’s especially true when it comes to ladders. “When we’ve got individuals on ladders, we want to make sure they’ve got all the safety equipment and when they’re up on the ladder that they’ve got themselves tethered off to where if they do have a slip they’re not going to fall,” said Edwards. “You make a mistake on the ground it’s one thing but if you make a mistake and you’re 40 feet up in the air, that can be detrimental.”
According to the PCT survey, 63 percent of PMPs said the incidence of on-the-job related injuries in 2018 for wildlife control were about the same as for general pest control work.
The author is a frequent contributor to PCT.