Steele had always worked with animals and owned several cats, dogs and horses and so naturally she thought working with animals, as a career, would be something she would enjoy.
“I thought working with wildlife or working in a zoo would be fun,” she said. “Everyday is crazy because you never know what you’re going to catch.”
Steele explained that with biologists on staff they make it their priority to take care of the animals as they trap them and ensure their safe return to the wild.
Steele said she mostly encounters bats, squirrels and raccoons, as well as the occasional opossum and skunk, when investigating a home.
“Every once in a while we’ll get a coyote call, but we haven’t had any in a while,” she said. “Our other office in North Carolina has had a few bobcat calls, but we have not had any yet.”
Although not a routine house call, the most interesting animal Steele has encountered was a blue heron.
“We did a rescue job for a blue heron a kayaker found. We had to crawl through a bunch of muck to get to it,” she said, noting that going on that type of rescue mission isn’t something they usually do. “It’s not everyday that you get to pick up a blue heron and carry it around. After we rescued it we brought it to a rehab center.”
So far, in the time Steele has been working in animal control, she has not encountered any vermin that have had rabies.
“We’ve had a couple raccoons that seemed very sickly and one that looked like it had mange,” she said. “We had it tested and it came back negative. We have never had one that tested positive, but we have had some that have been pretty scary looking.”
Steele noted that what she enjoys most about her job is seeing her clients relax after she and her team have solved the pest problem and knowing it won’t happen to them again.
She noted that while it is their job to take care of a pest problem, they make it their priority to take care of the animal in the time that it is trapped, and thereafter, until it is released back into the wild.
“We do our best to take care of the animals,” she said. “We check the traps, usually every 24 hours, and catch most of them overnight, so they aren’t left out in the heat of the day. The last thing we want to do is to harm the animal if that’s not necessary.”
Due to N.C. law, not all animals can be relocated after being caught and released, so the animals are released in the same location they were caught.
Once a varmint is ridden from a home, Steele and her team clean up any mess left behind by the team and make sure no other animals can get into the home.
She noted that different animals can cause different types of damage and cause harm to humans.
“Squirrels will chew everything from electrical wire to wood. Squirrels need to chew to keep their teeth from growing too long,” she said. “Raccoons defecate and urinate a lot and pack down the insulation in your attic. They can even fall through the ceiling if they have weakened the dry wall with urine. They don’t do a lot of chewing but they can do a lot of damage to your (air) ducts.”
Steele said that when bats get into the home, the amount of guano (bat feces) they leave behind is deadly.
She explained that there are precautions one can take in order to deter animals from entering the home, such as removing debris from the yard, which attracts animals. She also recommended that people keep tree branches off of their roof, which is an “animal highway.”
“Take away easy access,” she said. “Shrubbery should be kept away from your home. Keep a clean cut yard and keep branches off of the house.”
She also noted that those who enjoy watching birds should keep squirrels from eating from the bird feeders.
“It’s an easy way to lure them in without even knowing it because it is food right next to your house,” she said, noting this should be done year round, especially right before spring when animals search for a place to raise their babies.