MICHAEL A. SAWYERS
CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — For three years now, Patrick Shields has been grabbing bats, smoking out groundhogs, trapping everything from skunks to fishers and enjoying every minute of it.
“I was in the military for 10 years. I’ve been a correctional officer for 20 years and this is the only job I can say I have really loved,” Shields said as he stood outside his Seymour Street home and alongside much of his working equipment.
Trading as Western Maryland Nuisance Wildlife Control, Shields and his family are among the cooperators permitted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to catch and remove the state’s fauna from your attic, garage, basement or even from beneath your couch.
“Greene Street in Cumberland has a real skunk problem. I get a lot of calls from there,” Shields said. He prefers to bait skunks into live traps, using grape jelly sandwiches and a raw egg in a cup. The skunk enters the trap, trips the door and your odoriferous mammal problem has been handled.
“I charge $90 for the first animal on any trip,” Shields said. “Additional animals don’t cost as much.”
Removal of a copperhead or rattlesnake, though, goes for $125.
The DNR requires that any species that could have rabies that are trapped — skunks, foxes, raccoons — be killed.
“We don’t take the chance that the cooperator would be moving a rabid animal to another location,” said Wildlife Biologist Clarissa Harris. “Other animals, such as groundhogs, may be released on private land or even state land where permission has been granted.”
Within the past year, Shields received post-exposure rabies vaccinations. “I was handling a feral cat and it got away so I decided to be safe and get the shots,” he said.
Shields said a groundhog under a porch pulled a glove off his hand.
“I usually smoke groundhogs out from under porches and into a trap, but this one wouldn’t go for it,” he said of the Frederick Street rodent. “He’d stick his head out the hole and then go back under. Eventually I got tired of it and grabbed it around the head, but he pulled my glove off. Never did get that one.”
Shields said he trapped a fisher from beneath a porch in LaVale. “Then I sealed the porch and just released the fisher on site,” he said.
A common call Shields receives is about a bat in an attic.
“I’ll sometimes use a net to catch the bat, but I prefer to just grab it. I use a light touch and it’s not a problem. It’s less stressful on the bat. Bats are one of the good animals,” he said.
Shields’ most recent capture was a raccoon that had been accused of eating pet fish out of a backyard pond on Montgomery Avenue in Cumberland. Peanut butter and marshmallows were the animal’s undoing.
“Sometimes strawberries and Froot Loops work better,” Shields said.
If the unwanted wild guest is a snake, Shields has three different sticks to help him obtain the reptile: a pinning stick with a soft rubber tip that won’t injure; a hook that lifts the serpent; tongs that can be used to clamp the snake.
A DNR permit allowing a person to snatch snakes, remove raccoons or grab groundhogs costs $50 with an annual $25 renewal.
“Wild animals are like kids. They’ll get in trouble,” Shields said. “They do what comes natural. They’re not out to cause a problem.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)