Critter Catchers

As humans stay home animal pests move in — and more so now, with COVID-19.
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gypsy moth
Food For Thought: The gypsy moth is one of dozens of pests that can wreck havoc in Michigan and elsewhere. The presence of caterpillars, which eat leaves, has defoliated oak trees across the state. // Courtesy of the invasive species program

Al Smith is in a hurry. As owner of Aapex Pest Control in New Baltimore, Smith says demand for his services “has been absolutely insane” over the past year.

In particular, there have been so many calls to remove larger animals like raccoons and squirrels that he ran out of traps. Complaints about yellow jackets and wasps have been “four times greater than usual.”

Smith isn’t the only pest expert who’s busy. Gordon Ligon runs Detroit-based Goodbye Geese, whose clients include country clubs, yacht clubs, marinas, apartments — anyplace infested with Canada geese. The large birds leave messy droppings and can attack people who get near their nests. “The geese normally migrate, but with climate change — which means more food and ponds that don’t freeze over — more geese are staying over the winter,” Ligon says.

His business, which has a state permit, doesn’t harm the birds. Rather, he uses his three border collies to roust the birds to find new homes. “The birds see the dogs as predators,” he explains. Demand has been pretty consistent. “Sometimes we have to go back several times,” Ligon says.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others report more pests are invading homes as waste from restaurants and other food purveyors — a prime source of food for pests — have had to shut down or trim services due to COVID-19. Plus, the millions of people now isolating at home are generating far more garbage than normal.

Monroe resident Peter Liebner says he’s been seeing more red foxes, squirrels, starlings, and chipmunks that “have chewed through metal vents to get into my crawl space. And my whole yard is full of wild turkeys.”

Pests can have a huge financial cost as they invade homes and businesses and chew on wiring, walls, and furnishings — all the while spreading disease as they hunt for food.

Jeff Hartfield of Clinton Township waged a battle over the past year against what he thought were gophers; later, he was told the intruders were muskrats. The pests tore up his lawn and gardens and, worse, punctured the lining of his swimming pool.

“We lost about 25,000 gallons of water,” Hartfield says. “Our neighbor said it looked like a tidal wave when it ripped through the yard.” The total cost of his critter invasion: $8,000.

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