David Lawrence has been attacked by squirrels, sprayed by skunks and, at times, outsmarted by raccoons.
But for the owner of Critter Ridder and agent for the Ministry of Natural Resources, it’s all in a day’s work.
Lawrence utilizes a trap and release system for the humane removal of unwanted pests including rats, mice, birds, bats and groundhogs from residences and commercial buildings.
For the self-proclaimed animal lover, it’s a career that has grown beyond his initial expectations.
“My plan was initially to do pet sitting,” he said with a shrug. “Somehow it’s grown into this.”
Critter Ridder services the Brant area, as well as areas as far as London and Caledonia. During what Lawrence describes as “baby season,” he can receive up to 25 calls a day from people anxious to have unwanted pests removed from their homes, businesses, garages or garden sheds.
Wildlife will find their way into even the smallest spaces, from bathroom and dryer vents to chimneys and attics. Whether the newfound tenant is a bird or a raccoon, the destruction left behind can be devastating.
Birds, for instance, have been known to carry parasites that make their way into homes through ductwork.
“For the homeowner, it can be a disgusting thing to deal with,” Lawrence said. “They have to deal with little bugs coming through the vents. Blackbirds like the concealment of a hole in the wall or a vent and they carry a mite on them that will come into the home.”
While vents and ductwork tend to be inviting entry points for birds and mice, chimneys and attics are enticing for larger animals like raccoons.
“A raccoon is the only animal that can get to the bottom of a chimney, have their babies and go back up again,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence uses trusted strategies such as shaking a fireplace flue until the mother climbs out of the chimney, or using a plastic pole to push her out, before removing babies from their nest.
He will then monitor the area for the return of the mother, trap her and transplant the family up to one kilometre from the nesting site. Chimneys are capped once the animals are removed.
Of all of the animals Lawrence has dealt with, he said squirrels are the most vicious.
“Squirrels, of all mother animals, are the most protective,” he said. “They will not leave their babies behind. They are mean, mean animals and they will draw blood before they leave their babies.”
Despite one attack that saw a squirrel latch onto Lawrence’s chest until he dropped its baby, he has never been bitten. Skunks do spray him two to three times a year, however.
“I just go home, remove my clothes and lay them on a picnic table to air out,” he said. “Usually, I can wash it off in a shower. But I can be standing in line in Wal-Mart and somebody will say ‘do you smell skunk?’”
If homeowners have already attempted to trap rats or raccoons, Lawrence has to find alternate ways to get the job done.
“I would have to change the thought pattern of the raccoon and outsmart it,” he said. “(Rats) are easily trainable. If you make a mistake when you are trying to catch them, you have to change gears.”
Over the years, Lawrence has learned the habits of different species, which helps him determine the best method for trapping.
“I’ve got it down to an art,” he said. “There are baits that I develop to get them into the cage. I look around to see what food sources are around the house to determine what bait to use.”
Lawrence won’t use food-based bait for fear of attracting other animals to the cage. If he uses an odour, it is generally meant as a deterrent for animals he doesn’t want to attract.
Since opening his business in 1998, Lawrence has come across many different animals, including a mongoose in a chimney placed there as a university prank and a python wrapped around a radiator in an apartment building.
But the most humorous encounters have been of the human kind.
“I’ve had big tough guys call me on the phone who were locked in their bathrooms and standing on the toilet because of bats,” he said with a chuckle.
Call Critter Ridder at 519-755-4466 for more information.