A Day in the Life of a WMP


February 1, 2009

By: Mark E. Dotson

Editor’s Note: This is Part III of WMP Mark Dotson’s chronicle of a typical day. In the last issue (WMP, December 2008, pg. 20), Mark finished before lunch by releasing an angry skunk.

I documented my paperwork and got caught up on the last two jobs’ invoices, checked my map and headed down the road again. It was nearing noon now, and I was starting to get a little hungry.

I searched for my hand wipes and cleaned my hands. I managed to get a lunch packed the night before, so it was time to eat on the run. Some days were like that, but this day was busier than normal and I needed to keep on going, as the days were shorter now because fall was upon us.

Another catch awaited me. This time it was a woodpecker in a trap. Here in Colorado, woodpeckers can destroy homes. In short order, a home can be hammered with holes —and the poor homeowners are left with no idea of how to deal with the problem.

Since woodpeckers are a protected birds, I had to go through the proper channels before we could do a control program. I pulled up to the house and could see the bird in a trap. This trap was the end of the road for the woodpecker because there is no relocation for these guys. They are territorial and would be right back to the home again — and continue to damage it.

I removed the bird, reset the trap and reloaded the truck. I identified the bird, documented the capture and what the disposition would be. We take all birds to a sanitary landfill, and that met the legal requirements of disposal.

After the paperwork was done, I quickly checked my schedule to figure out where I needed to be next. As I was doing so, the phone rang. It was someone with a lost dog. I couldn’t help them with that, so I referred them over to the proper agency. Sometimes people think that a wildlife guy is the dog catcher, too.

Stop 7: Mystery Scratching

I put the truck in gear and headed to the next job. This one was going to be fun. The owners heard something in a wall. It was scratching, and they were concerned that it was going to come through the wall and eat them. It was my job to assure them that this was not going to happen and make things right in their world.

It was another 20-minute ride down the road to the next stop, and I arrived again ahead of schedule. I’m never one to be late if I can help it. My client’s time is just as valuable as mine. I came to the client’s home and looked it over from the outside. It seemed to be pretty tight.

I rang the bell and waited for someone to answer. It wasn’t long before the door swung open and the lady said, “I am so glad to see you! This thing is driving me crazy!”

It was not the first time that I had heard that response. Sometimes people are so frustrated by just trying to find you that they are about ready to burst when you walk in the door.

She invited me in and took me over to the place in the wall where the noise was coming from. I asked her when the last time she had heard it was and she replied, “About two days ago.”

“Two days, huh?” I replied. I figured that it had either gotten out of the wall void or has died. I retreated to my truck to gather my tools for what was going to be an interesting inspection. Carving holes in someone’s wall was alwaysinteresting.

I brought all my stuff inside, rolled out a drop cloth, scanned the wall, pulled out my drywall saw and started to make a cut with the precision of a surgeon. I opened up a hole large enough to inspect what was inside (I have since purchased a scope) and didn’t find anything.

This is the time that always makes you — and your client — a little antsy: Time to make a new hole. I moved over a stud, scanned again and pierced the drywall. I popped a small hole in and there it was: A rat that was in the process of decaying. Fortunately, it had only been dead a day or so.

With the dead rat in the wall, there was only one thing to do, and that was to remove it. It came out easily enough. I then buttoned up the wall. My client was about to go into hysterics by this time and asked me if I thought there were more.

I told her that it was possible and asked her if she would mind if I took a look around the place. Without hesitation, she agreed, and I inspected the house. It was a neatly kept house and not the sort of place that one would think a rat would live, but these things happen to the best of homes.

I didn’t find any further evidence of an infestation, but decided to leave a few traps around just in case. The news that it didn’t look like a major infestation was a relief to my client, and she thanked me for my “heroic” efforts. I wasn’t really feeling like a hero, but what the heck? I could live with that compliment.

It was time to start wrapping things up and get onto the next job. I gathered all my tools together, did some paperwork and told the customer I would be back in a week to check the house again.

Stop 8: Gophers

The sun seemed to be moving faster than I was today. I paused for a moment to reflect on my day. There was always a variety in my field of work, and that variety consistently challenged me. There are never two situations that are exactly alike. It is always someone new that you are meeting, and their problem is unique to them. How fortunate I felt to be living my life doing exactly what I wanted to do — to take an age-old craft and apply it to the 21st century.

It was time to come down out of the clouds and get back on my schedule. I pulled out my planner to see what was next on the agenda. It looks like an appointment with some gophers was going to be next on the list. There are not a lot of gophers in the Denver area. Usually they’re found in sandy soil areas of the surrounding cities. This one happened to be at the Denver/Aurora line. When the area was being formed, sand must have been deposited there.

As usual, I grabbed my map, took a quick glance and was on my way again. The weather was beautiful, and the traffic was light. Within about 15 minutes, I was pulling in the driveway of a nice two-story home with a well-manicured lawn.

I grabbed some business cards and headed to the front door. I rang the bell and waited. And waited. No one answered. I went to the side yard and peered around to the back. There was a man in the back yard watering the lawn.

I said hello from a distance, as I didn’t want to startle him. I walked up and introduced myself and he said, “Man, am I glad to see you!” I looked around at his yard and said, “I bet you are!” His back yard was full of sand mounds, and some of his shrubbery was dying.

He told me that the gophers moved in a couple months ago, and he had finally had enough of them. I let him know that I would be ridding his property of these current intruders — he could rest assured of that.

I went to the truck and picked out some gopher traps, put them in my bucket along with my shovel, probe and gloves, and made my way to the backyard again.

I pulled out the probe and started locating the tunnels in the sandy soil. I was glad it was sand because it’s so much easier to work in than clay. I probed around and found three really good tunnels. Each tunnel would be set with a trap, and the removal process would begin.

Trapping gophers is an interesting task. They are not too difficult to trap and are rather neat animals to study. In my line of work, it makes your job so much easier if you know the habits of the animals. I suspect it would be much like a police officer trying to catch a criminal. He would need to know where that criminal usually hung out and at what times of day or night.

The traps were all set. It was time to do a little paperwork with my client and get a move on.

Stop 9: More Squirrels

I wonder what is going to be next, I thought. The planner revealed another squirrel in an attic call. Well, I have done a hundred of those, so off I went. The address area looked familiar, so I could get by without using the map for this client. I turned the key and started the truck, shifted into gear and was on the road again.

Traffic was still pretty light, and it would be no time till I made it to my client’s house. I just hope this one didn’t do any damage in the attic. It always amazes me how squirrels can chew on live electrical wires in the attic and survive.

As I drove down the street that my client lived on, I noticed it was one of those houses with a back alley and a pull in out back. I came down the alley and parked the truck there. Often, it’s much easier to work on the home from the back yard and eliminate a gate or two in the process. It is not a lot of fun opening gates when you are carrying a ladder.

My client saw me pull up and was waiting for me outside the back door. “Cool,” I said to myself. “This will save me a little time.”

She was a middle-aged, professional-looking lady. I said hello and she said, “Are you the man who is going to save me from these squirrels?”

I said, “Yes, ma’am.”

Off we went on a quick tour of the home, and she gave me a thorough idea of what I was up against. I let her know I needed to suit up, get my gear and would be right back.

I started this inspection from the inside. Sometimes starting there helps in the investigation and leads to more clues. The attic had plenty of clues in it, and there was even a squirrel in residence. It ran out as soon as I neared where it was trying to hide — in a ball of insulation. Now, I had a respirator on. How can a squirrel live in an attic and not be annoyed by the insulation? I may never know the answer to that.

I bounced down out of the attic and buttoned it up. I made my way downstairs and out the back door. After retrieving the ladder and putting it onto the roof edge, I clambered up it and onto the roof. Since I saw the squirrel exiting, it wasn’t that hard to figure this house out. It had made a small hole on a roof-line on the front of the home. The rest of the house looked to be in good shape.

I grabbed some cages, baited them and set them up for the intruding squirrels. I did the usual paperwork with my client and instructed her about the program. She was worried that there might be babies. I asked her if she had heard more than one squirrel in the attic, and she thought she did. It would not be uncommon to have more than one. Time would tell.

Speaking of time, I was doing quite well today and I needed to keep moving.

Next Issue: Mark encounters raccoons, skunks and finally get to go home.

You can reach Dotson, exectuive officer of A All Animal Control, at contributor@mypmp.net.

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