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October 15, 2020

Remington wildlife control business outsmarts pests

Photos/Don Del Rosso
Katherine Ellsworth and Jesse Outland examine the damage that beavers have done to trees on her farm near Opal.
Jesse James Critter Gitters owner Jesse Outland prepares rodent traps at another client’s home near Opal.
Any time you’re dealing with anything rabid or with distemper or anything like that, that’s when it gets kind of scary, when you’re trying to catch an animal that’s completely out of its mind.
— Critter Gitters owner Jesse Outland
Jesse James Critter Gitters
• What: Wildlife control and removal, pest control business.

• Where: 300 E. Main St., Suite D, Remington.

• Owner: Jesse Outland.

• Office hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays

• Employees: 8

• Established: 2015

• Phone: 540-229-6139

• Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

• Website: Click here

• Facebook: Click here

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Taking her son to soccer practice last Saturday, the landscape designer spotted a gnawed and toppled tree at the bottom of the family farm near Opal.

“All of a sudden I looked and, ‘Oh, my God, we’ve got a beaver’!” Katherine Ellsworth recalled.

So, two days later, Ms. Ellsworth contacted Jesse James Critter Gitters, a wildlife control, removal and pest-control company based in Remington that a cattleman neighbor of hers had used a few years ago to resolve a beaver problem.

Critter Gitters owner Jesse Outland met Ms. Ellsworth, 52, Wednesday morning at the farm to assess the damage and discuss potential solutions.

“He already chewed another tree,” she said of the beaver. “And I’m afraid he’s going to start on these other ones. And I don’t know where he’s going with it.”

Great Run — a tributary of the Rappahannock River — flows just east of her farm.

“You’re always going to have beavers in this particular area because” Great Run “goes right to” the river, Mr. Outland said. “But at least we can catch the beaver that’s eating your trees. We might catch two or three.”

On Thursday, he placed two traps along Great Run. The five-day service plan that involves daily trap checks will cost the Ellsworths $699.

Most wildlife calls involve bats, beavers, birds, raccoons, snakes and squirrels, said Mr. Outland, 27.

“Spring’s our busiest time, because that’s birthing season for a lot of animals,” the Midland resident said. “They’re tearing into houses or nesting in houses. My trucks are running 70, 80 hours a week.”

Business dips as temperatures rise.

“The dead of the summer is probably your slowest because nothing’s giving birth,” Mr. Outland said. “It’s so hot in the attics, they don’t want to go up there.”

But activity spikes as winter approaches and animals seek shelter from the cold, he said.

He ranks raccoons as “the most destructive animal out there.”

“If he wants to, a raccoon can rip the shingles off a roof, rip the plywood off and go into the attic.”

In one case, his crew had to gut the second floor of home because of raccoon damage. In another, a determined raccoon stripped all the aluminum from the side of a home.

Raccoons and squirrels like to chew and destroy wires, HVAC duct work and insulation, and “they poop everywhere,” Mr. Outland said.

Mice may be the most prevalent home invader, he said.

“Very few houses do I go into that have never had a mouse,” Mr. Outland said.
“They can chew wires. Over time, if you have them year to year, they’ll compress all the insulation. We’re more worried about all their feces and their urine.”

In various ways, snakes enter homes undetected, he said.

Excellent climbers, they slither up walls and squeeze through siding and other gaps, for example. They also find their way into homes via garages and open back doors.

“One thing we tell people about snakes is keep your garage door shut,” Mr. Outland said.

His company gets calls about black, garter and ring-necked snakes — all “harmless” — and occasionally the venomous copperheads, he said.

Other creatures the company has handled include groundhogs, muskrats and skunks.

In 20 years of trapping — for fun and professionally — he’s never gotten sprayed by a skunk.

“They’re actually extremely easy to move, to deal with,” Mr. Outland said of skunks. “You just got to be really slow with them, talk to them when they’re in the trap and pay attention. After you’ve done a few, you’ll get their movements, understand what they’re thinking.”

Diseased animals often pose the greatest danger, he said.

“Any time you’re dealing with anything rabid or with distemper or anything like that, that’s when it gets kind of scary, when you’re trying to catch an animal that’s completely out of its mind,” Mr. Outland said.

Loose animals in homes also present great risk and unique challenges, he said.

“It can be kind of unpredictable in what you do,” Mr. Outland said. “If a squirrel came down the chimney, and he’s running around the living room, he doesn’t just sit down on the coffee table and say, ‘Here I am’.”

Wildlife work represents about 80 percent of the company’s business, with pest control comprising the balance, he said. It added pest control services in early 2019.

But only a quarter of the wildlife business involves trapping. His company “euthanizes” — meaning shoots — almost all trapped animals because of strict state laws that prohibit their relocation, Mr. Outland said.

Instead, Critter Gitters emphasizes methods to prevent animals from re-entering structures, he said.

They can include the installation of one-way doors under porches or attic vents, for example, that allow animals to leave but not return, Mr. Outland explained.

“Most of what we do is going to be repairs, exclusions, cleaning up and remediation,” he said. “Our goal is to fix the problem. We don’t wake up every morning and say, ‘I want to catch a raccoon’.”

Less labor-intensive, that approach also proves more cost-effective for clients, Mr. Outland added.

Established in 2015, Critter Gitters serves Fauquier, neighboring counties and Northern Virginia.

About 40 percent of the company’s clients live in densely populated Fairfax and Loudoun counties, Mr. Outland said.

“In rural areas, you don’t have that much wildlife conflict, because there’s not as many people,” he said.

It seems counter-intuitive but land development doesn’t force some wildlife to the countryside, Mr. Outland said.

Rather, small animals remain in the area to his company’s benefit, he said.

“They don’t just disappear,” Mr. Outland said. “They end up going in the house. All a house is, is a big giant tree with heating and air conditioning.”

An early practitioner, Mr. Outland began trapping at age 6 or 7. He and his younger brother James — the company’s general manager — started with homemade wooden boxes.

“We were catching like raccoons and possums, just around the house or on the way to the school bus,” Jesse said.

The brothers operated a trapping business part time-through high school and during summers in between college semesters.

Jesse earned a bachelor’s degree in bio-sustainable materials from Virginia Tech in 2014. James, 24, got an associate’s degree in agricultural technology from the same university in 2016.

So, what does Jesse like most about the work?

“Dealing with animals. Obviously, you’d have to. I really like dealing with different people. They all have different issues. No squirrel job is the same.”

Contact Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-0300.
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