Being a professional wildlife specialist that traps and catches an array of critters can have its truly wild moments, concedes Jarrod Yasenchok.
“The craziest is when you have mother raccoons, and you get in an attic with maybe two feet of crawl space to move around in, and you’ve got a mother raccoon in front of you, protecting four babies, and she’s going to bite and come right at you,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to grab her without getting bit in the face or neck, and that’s while laying on your stomach in a tight space, and you can’t fall through the ceiling.”
But such an intense experience is all in a day’s work for Yasenchok, a Fortson resident who transitioned from a hitch in the U.S. Army to termite and pest control technician with Sears to a home remodeler and then, finally, about six years ago to his own multi-pronged company.
The centerpiece is Jarrod’s Affordable Wildlife Eviction, based out of a storefront on Veterans Parkway, where he also operates a family-based pest control operation and a do-it-yourself outlet.
The Ledger-Enquirer visited Yasenchok, 47, recently to talk about his wild moments and what it takes to capture animals in humane ways, then release them back into the environment or to the appropriate wildlife center or organization. This interview is edited a bit for length and clarity, with a longer version at www.ledger-enquirer.com.
How did you learn the art of capturing wildlife? I researched and saw what it took to start catching the animals. From there, I got licensed in nine states in the Southeast.
You call it evicting wildlife? I call it evicting because our tag logo on all of our trucks says if you’re not paying, you’re not staying. Our little mascot is the raccoon with the hobo bag. We did wildlife removal first, and then after a couple of years of that we started the store in the pest-control business.
Which part of the job do you like doing the most? Wildlife’s the most fun, of course, because every day is different. I’m likely to be catching raccoons, possums, squirrels, foxes, snakes. And there’s nothing like a customer needing a service bad. When they come home and there’s a snake in their laundry room, they want you there bad. We do 24 hours, seven days a week, so we answer the phone constantly. We’ve gone to get bats that got in people’s house flying around at 2 in the morning.
I once found a small snake under my car hood. Any experiences like that? I’ve had people call me and their cars won’t start. They pop the hood in the winter time and a possum is laying against the motor box and has chewed the wires. So I’ve been up at 5 o’clock in the morning at someone’s house pulling a possum out of the engine compartment. I guess that night, (after the homeowner drove home), the possum went in there to the warmth.
Is the pest control part of your operation more consistent? It is more consistent. Everybody who’s a pest control customer, of course, I give a discount if you have wildlife problems. Somebody who calls us randomly out of the blue and has us go catch or get something, it may be $300. If you are a pest control customer, it may be $200 or $225.
How often do you go out on a wildlife eviction call? Every day, five or six a day. I’ve got 18 employees. I’ve got two full-time crews that stay gone constantly. (Points to a map) All of these tacks in all of these states are my accounts. I do a lot of major contracts, like I’ve got the contract for Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kmart. I do Lowe’s and Tractor Supply. I do malls and hospitals. When people call us, they want someone who’s going to do it right. And believe it or not, I don’t charge unless we remove it. I’ll drive 10 hours from here to Miami and when we take care of the problem, I get paid. If I don’t, I go back again for free until I get it. (That happens) maybe twice a month.
Is there competition in this field? Not with me. There are a few people out there. Some people call the other people first and, of course, they don’t do the job right and don’t come back. I always come back ... I do a lot of stuff for free. If people say they have got a couple of raccoons and we catch two of them, and then three days later they say there’s a third. These other companies want to charge them to get the third. I go back and get the third for free. If you have bats, they’ll charge you for a bat job. They remove all of these bats and 30 or 60 days later, there’s three or four bats in (the homeowner’s) vent or something, they want to charge them or they won’t come back. I always call those people used car salesmen. It’s almost like you’re going to sell them a car and once you buy it and you’re gone, you don’t get the service after the sale. So I always go back and take care of people.
What’s the most common thing you find in attics? Bats, raccoons and squirrels, a lot of squirrels.
The pest control diversifies things? In the winter time, when the store’s down, we sell online. There’s always Florida and Texas, Arizona and California, the warmer states. Everything stays active and warm because it’s not real cold. And in the winter months at the store, when the pest control slows down (locally), that’s when your wildlife picks up. That’s when all your squirrels, possums, raccoons, all want to stay warm. So they start chewing and getting into attics. (Locally) we service a 50-mile area. We go from here to Newnan and over to Auburn-Opelika.
You mentioned catching vultures earlier. What else, gators? Yeah, I’ve gotten three alligators. We’ve got vultures, hawks, owls, raccoons, possums, snakes, bats, coyotes, beaver. Caught a lot of beavers. And spiders.
Termite season is kicking in now? As soon as we get about 70 degrees temperature for two weeks, you’re right in the middle of termite season. That’s why you see (640 bottles) of Thermidor in the store. We’re getting calls for termites.
What do homeowners need to look for? It looks like a white maggot, or look for mud. They’re 97 percent moisture, so they have to return to the ground every 24 hours and keep their moisture content. If you just take them out of the ground and hold them in the sun, they really don’t have a color. They’re like transparent. So the sun dries them out and they’ll die. They have to have moisture, so they’ll bring the red-clay dirt up into your house. If you start seeing baseboards with pin holes in them or holes in your sheetrock, and you go to wipe the hole and it’s mud or dirt, that’s normally termites. (The mud acts) like a wick. They will build that tunnel and bring all that dirt up into the wall and the wood, and as it wicks from the ground, instead of going into the ground every 24 hours ... now they can maybe go back every 48 hours.
Are they a bad problem in the Columbus area? They’re subterranean termites and they’re bad. Every company in town is wide open.
How many houses do you think have termites? There are only two kinds of houses. One has had termites ... and the other one is going to get them. Every building and every house and every shed, every one is going to have termites.
How long does a treatment last? We give a 10-year bond ... There are different chemicals. There are repellents and there are killers. We only use the best. We don’t use repellents. So when somebody goes and gets and estimate against somebody else, you have to compare apples to apples, because a lot of these companies use a repellent. What they do is treat the soil and are just repelling the termites. That’s sort of like using “Off” for mosquitoes. You’re going to spray “Off” on you and repel them to keep them away. But you can still get bit, versus actually spraying Raid or something on it and killing the mosquito.
You use Thermidor? Thermidor is like a cancer. It’s a slow-acting plague. It’s not a fast killer. They come in contact with Thermidor and just go right on through it. It’s odorless and non-detectable, so they don’t know they’re in it. They just slowly get the plague. As they go through colonies and all of the tunnels underground and feed the queen, they’re touching everybody else and slowly giving the plague to everybody. And what happens is it spreads through the whole colony and they all die. And if they all die, you’re not going to get termites. Now Thermidor’s been on the market for almost 20 years and it’s still working. The EPA and the Department of Agriculture allows us to put it in the soil every 10 years. So we can treat your house and we monitor it every year with an inspection to make sure you don’t have termites. If you have termites (in a previously treated area) we can retreat, say if there was a chemical breakdown or erosion or somehow the dirt moved or you had an addition built. We can spot treat where termites are within a 10-year period. But after 10 years we can treat the whole entire house again.
What’s the cost of something like that? We run a special with our store. If we do it for you, we treat any home for $269 and (customers) buy the chemical for use. We just set a labor price. For $269 labor, we’ll treat any size home and then the cost is determined by how big your house is. If you have a big house, you’ll need more chemical. If you have a small house, you’ll need less chemical. We’ll measure your house and tell you how many gallons you need. You buy the concentrate from us ... We’ll drill (home foundation holes for treatment) and trench it. We’ll charge a dollar per hole to drill, too, and you drill every 12 inches.
Warm weather, naturally, is your major season? During spring and summer, of course, it’s going to get worse.
Did the cold weather we had last winter have an impact on this season? You’re here in the South and you get the heat and humidity and moisture; you’re going to have bugs and insects. The cold weather will put a little damper on some things. But it won’t eliminate the population. Like ants and termites will go underground ... but at so many feet down — the soil’s all about 55 degrees or something — termites and pests go into the ground deep and are out of the cold.
What’s a typical day like for you? For me personally, I come to the office and check the answering machine and see who called in. If it’s an emergency, it’s forwarded to my cell phone. I don’t personally do any pest control. I have techs that do that. I do termites because they’re very important and they can eat someone’s house down. So I take all the termite calls, and I do the wildlife removal. I go out and set traps and check traps. Every 24 hours you have to check the traps. You don’t want to leave any animal in traps without water. We put water bottles inside our traps.
Why do you use the humane approach? One, people like it. But, two, it’s for the animal. ... The more people find out you’re humane, of course, they like you ... All of our coyote traps, we have foot-hold traps; they’ve got rubber on them, so they’ll actually hold the animal’s leg. We put a dog-hold catcher on (the animal), catch it and release it. ... We get a lot of homeowner associations that will actually pay me to go into a subdivision and trap the coyotes.
You said you got a hawk out of a Walmart before? I’ve gotten multiple hawks out of Walmarts. I’ve done a lot of Walmarts.
How do things get into the stores? They’ll bring snakes in with pallets from the distribution centers ... When they wrap everything, possums or raccoons can get in there, all kinds of stuff. Every Walmart has a retention pond, so snakes and stuff come in from there. And squirrels will get into the garden centers because they have the bird seed out there. They (also) call me if they get raccoons and squirrels chewing their computer lines and their registers shut down. A lot of these stores are doing $100,000 or $150,000 a day, and you can’t shut down a Walmart. So they call me to go in there because we do 100 percent removal ... There’s almost 2,000 stores in the Southeast, and I keep two crews with four guys traveling. Right now they’re in Florida and Mississippi. They constantly stay on the road.
You mentioned the mama raccoon episode. Have you been bitten before? Bats, raccoons, I get bit by snakes a lot. If they’re non-venomous, I bring them in for training for my guys, and train them on how to pick them up and handle them. If you don’t pick them up quick enough and get them by the back of the neck quick enough, they’ll turn and bite your forearm.
Do you go to the doctor if you’re bitten by anything? Not for non-venomous snakes ... There’s a pre-rabies shot, so we can get vaccinated beforehand. We’ve had rabid raccoons and rabid bats, and we’ll take them to animal control and they’ll send them off to Atlanta to get tested.
You recently captured a young owl in Lakebottom Park, and you’re going to take it to Auburn University? Yeah, the raptor center. We donate animals to Callaway Gardens and then to Wildlife Animal Safari. But we deal with Auburn the most. They rehabilitate them and nurse them back before putting them back in the wild. When they get those that are too tame, they give them to Callaway Gardens Discovery Center. They have shows and bring out hawks and eagles.
What’s the toughest or most challenging part of your job? Making payroll. (laughs) Challenging? It’s probably servicing all the calls. We have a good price, whether it’s do-it-yourself or we send our guys out there. We’re cheaper than anybody else because of the volume we get from the store. Our chemical costs are low. So we beat everybody’s pest control price, and we do more for less.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your job? Taking care of a problem. If someone has a problem, you fix it. When they call, you answer the phone. When they call, you’re there ... Basically, we’re a problem solver.
BIO Name: Jarrod Yasenchok Age: 47 Hometown: Newark, Calif. Current residence: Fortson, Ga., in Harris County Previous jobs: Served four years in U.S. Army as nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialist; worked with Sears Termite Pest Control; remodeled and repaired homes Family: Patricia, wife of 25 years, and two grown children, Megan and Jarrod Jr. Education: Attended Santa Barbara Business School in California, and studied pre-pharmacy at Columbus State University Leisure time: Not a lot of free time, but does take major trips to other countries, including Brazil, Ecuador, Belize, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Germany, France and the Netherlands