Wildlife Control Industry Standards

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The National Animal Damage Control Association (NADCA), in conjunction with the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA), has undertaken the task of developing proposed minimum licensing standards for nuisance wildlife control operators. The National Wildlife Control Operators Association (NWCOA) is also working on certification/licensing standards of their own.

These standards, if adopted by every state, would guarantee that every individual and company who handles wildlife problems would possess minimum qualifications to do so.

Critter Control CEO, Kevin Clark, notes that, “due to our commitment to superior customer service the Critter Control policies, training, and continuing education programs have always exceeded these proposed minimums. As the industry leader it is our responsibility to set the highest standards.”


Critter Control announced in September of 1999 that it had developed a reference manual and a certification test for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators (NWCOs). The “Vertebrate Pest Management” manual has been submitted to state wildlife agencies and the National Wildlife Control Operators Association (NWCOA) for further usage in developing consistency in permit standards throughout the United States (most states have either no current testing system, or the tests are based on unrelated fur-trapping).

Critter Control CEO Kevin Clark noted that, “While we realize each state has its own particular laws, rules and regulations, and that the common nuisance animal species vary from region to region, we believe the manual and exams cover a wide range of common, important subjects, and the test can be easily modified to meet each state’s own special needs.”

Two separate 100-question exams are available for testing purposes. The manual and exams are available on computer disk to wildlife agencies, and several states have already ordered the package.

The Vertebrate Pest Management manual was developed in cooperation with staff from Michigan State University’s Pesticide Education Program, the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, and wildlife biologists from Critter Control.
Chapters include:
1) Legalities of Vertebrate Pest Control
2) Bird Control
3) Domestic Rodents
4) Wild Rodents
5) Other Vertebrate Pests

Since Critter Control managers began testing last fall, most have become “Certified Wildlife Specialists” Critter Control’s certified technicians are awarded a certificate of achievement, and a special logo-patch to proudly display and recognize their efforts. Critter Control remains committed to setting the highest standards in the industry, and we hope that state agencies and other NWCOs push for similar professionalism, and certification programs.


The Animal Care Expo, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), was held February 18-21, 1998 in San Diego, California. A special plenary session was devoted to HSUS’s new focus on wildlife involvement in rescue, rehabilitation and nuisance situations.

Critter Control CEO Kevin Clark presented papers on Nuisance Wildlife Control Issues, The Status of Nuisance Wildlife Damage Control in the United States, and Guidelines for Networking with Wildlife Control Operators.
Dr. John Grandy, HSUS Vice President for Wildlife and Habitat Protection stated that, “The animal sheltering community is often the first or only line of defense” for wildlife. While many shelters “Don’t have enough people to help or don’t have the time,” noted Grandy, “still the public will often call the humane society first.”

In addressing nuisance wildlife, Grandy says, “Many nuisance wildlife control operators (NWCOs) lack the training to properly provide humane control,” and that “Wildlife conflicts have to be handled humanely, and we (HSUS) are leaders in that regard.” He also noted that many wildlife laws are antiquated – leftover from the 1890’s, and that, “We are at the same crossroads today.”

Dr. Linda Wolf (DVM), Vice President of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) pointed out that the HSUS survey of shelters showed that “Ninety-percent of all shelters deal with wildlife,” and that “Forty-percent pick up trapped animals.”

John Hadidian, HSUS Director of Urban Wildlife Protection, said that HSUS was committed to “Giving shelters the resources to deal with wildlife,” While introducing Critter Control’s CEO Kevin Clark, Hadidian noted that not only was Critter Control the largest wildlife control company in the country, it was “The most professional” as well.

Clark stated that wildlife damage complaints are increasing dramatically throughout the United States, and as a direct result it is estimated that over 10,000 NWCOs have sprung up to offer a wide array of wildlife management related services. There are over 1,000 licensed NWCOs in New York alone, while the Critter Control chain has over 100 offices in 37 states. This results in millions of animals being trapped, relocated or euthanized.

Humane Societies receive thousands of calls annually from homeowners with nuisance wildlife problems. To improve communications and understanding Clark suggested guidelines for animal shelters that refer NWCOs. Some of the more obvious issues were that the NWCO have the proper State Agency licenses and permits, and be fully insured (including personal and property liability insurance, as well as worker’s compensation).


A. That the NWCO shall provide its services in an efficient and humane manner with urgent concern for domestic and wild animals.
B. Wildlife will be translocated to suitable habitat, released on site, or euthanized (according to state laws); except that sick, injured, or orphaned wild animals will be transported to licensed rehabilitation centers, animal shelters, veterinarians, or destroyed as deemed necessary and appropriate. Euthanasia shall be performed to American Veterinary Medical Association standards.
C. Agree in advance what cost, if any, the Humane Society will charge to provide veterinary care.
D. NWCO shall work in close coordination with the Humane Society’s staff and shall at all times be considered a service company and not an enforcement branch or agency of the Humane Society . . . .
E. NWCO shall save the Humane Society harmless (and visa/versa) from any loss or damage that each may incur as a result of this relationship.
F. NWCO shall provide safe and humane equipment, which shall be kept in proper working order.
G. If Humane Society relays injured wildlife calls to the NWCO, will NWCO provide pick-up and, transportation of said animal to the nearest veterinarian or Humane Society shelter (specify fees, if any, being charged to the Humane Society or the public).
H. The NWCO agrees to abide by the code of ethics developed by Dr. Robert Schmitt of Utah State University.


A decade after the start of negotiations an international agreement on humane traps standards was reached in 1998 (the trap testing methodology standards are still being worked out). The agreement allows for continued trapping with current methods while each nation develops a trap testing program.

The United States began their trap testing program when the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted $350,000 for the project. After enough data has been gathered a set of humane trapping guidelines will be established, and it will be up to each state to implement the Best Management Practices.

Best Management Practices (BMPs) are essentially a set of recommendations based on sound scientific information and practical application of that science in complex situations often encountered in practice. Overall BMPs will improve the selectivity and efficiency of trapping techniques, reduce injuries to animals, and give the users research data for management needs. This should also improve the acceptability of trapping as the BMPs are integrated into public education.

In addition to testing for humaneness, traps must be practical, efficient and safe for the user. In general the agreement approves the use of “padded” leg-hold traps, cage traps, and live-catch snares. Body-gripping traps that kill quickly (preferably 1-2 minutes, but must be under five minutes) may also acceptable. The use of un-approved traps may be allowed on a case-by-case basis when necessary to control animals that are a direct threat to human health, personal property, or the environment.

Critter Control CEO Kevin Clark is a member of the United States Technical Advisory Group for trap standards, and calls the agreement a step in the right direction. “After 10 years there is finally a working agreement that we can build on” says Clark. “Improved traps will continue to be developed for the welfare of all animals.”

Critter Control has always been committed to ethical and humane standards of animal control operation and we encourage the entire industry to follow this lead.


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