I live in a mobile home park, and recently I heard disturbing sounds emanating from underneath my home during the day and night. They were loud enough that they were interfering with my sleep. Whatever was under there was certainly an unbidden guest, so I decided to call a local pest control service to investigate. My uneducated guess was that a family of notorious and nasty Norway rats had moved in.

The pest control person who came out baited three traps with almonds and set them under my home. The next day when I went to check the traps I discovered that two of the traps had not been sprung and that one trap was missing altogether.

Later that same day, as luck would have it, I met for the first time Steve from eRATicators Wildlife Pest Control, specializing in wildlife rescue and recovery, who just happened to be at another resident’s home to deal with her complaint of a loud nocturnal noise on her roof, which Steve quickly assessed as the frisky cavorting of a raccoon. I casually mentioned my problem to Steve, and he said he would be glad to look in to it.

Steve crawled partway under my home, and it didn’t take him long to discover that it wasn’t rats that were my guests but a family of creatures of the genus and species Mephitis mephitis. A small family of skunks were bivouacked there. The park has a fair number of the colorful creatures that wander through the arroyo and environs nightly, so getting an occasional “whiff” is par for the course, but it still came as quite a surprise to me to find them there. Unfortunately, when Steve found the missing trap, it enclosed a leg of one of the baby skunks.

A neighbor of mine and I were noisily conversing nearby, watching Steve at work, and he politely asked us to move away from the area and be very quiet so that he could try to free the cute little creature from the trap. Then, gently and deftly, using a long, thin plastic rod, he was able to inch the poor little thing toward him to the point that he could release it from the trap and rescue it. And he did so without it discharging a molecule from its powerful scent gland atomizer. Then, to help guard against further intrusions, he took a can of granulated coyote urine and sprinkled it under the home and around the perimeter of the structure. Thankfully, I’m now back to sleeping undisturbed. But the story does not end there.

That afternoon, while Steve was in the middle of resolving my problem, he received a call from the park manager, who said that he had received a call from a resident reporting that bees were swarming around the base of the fireplace chimney at the clubhouse in the park. The manager enlisted Steve to ferret out what was going on up there. Steve assessed the situation in a few minutes, finding that the bees were getting into the chimney from a small opening at the base of the chimney breast where it joins the tile roof. The next morning, donning his bee suit, gloves, headdress, and veil, Steve went to work.

Climbing high on an extension ladder well above the roof peak—at least 30 feet—and surrounded by an angry halo of bees, he took a Skilsaw with a masonry blade and cut through the stucco on the chimney breast to gain access to the interior. He discovered that two colonies had taken up residence there. By late morning, the temperature had already nudged into the 80s. In his tight-fitting bee suit, it must have felt like a hundred degrees.

It was not without apprehension that I watched him mount and dismount the unsupported ladder with the grace, seemingly, of an aerial artist. In my mind’s eye I still retain the image of him climbing up balancing a bee box on one shoulder and toting a bee vacuum in the other hand. Then, laboring ever so patiently, he managed to fill two bee boxes with tens of thousands of bees. Nearly his entire day was spent rescuing the bees. I stood nearby in the intense sun transfixed for nearly two hours watching him go about his work, time and again swatting away a disoriented and stirred up honey bee suddenly appearing out of nowhere. Steve later good-naturedly cautioned me that this was an ill-advised way to try to defend oneself.

At the end of the day’s labor we sat and chatted for a while, and Steve, his enthusiasm for his work reflected in his lucent blue-gray eyes, regaled me with several anecdotes of his many years working in the insect and animal kingdoms, about their habitats, habits, and behaviors. I was particularly struck by one of them: I learned that one cannot hide from a swarm of Africanized honey bees, or killer bees, by plunging into the swimming pool; that they will find you, and hover closely over you until it’s time to surface for air.

The animal world is fortunate to have this friendly, remarkably calm, and compassionate practitioner of legerdemain.Wayne Nelson


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