Wildlife rehabilitator Bonnie Bradshaw started 911 Wildlife in 2006. She was familiar with other companies that remove unwanted animals and knew she could do it better.
“I was extremely frustrated by the thousands of raccoons, squirrels and other wildlife unnecessarily orphaned every year in every city in the U.S. by homeowners and wildlife control companies,” Bradshaw said. “I trained with a company in Canada that already had perfected the techniques for humanely evicting and excluding wildlife from homes and businesses without causing orphans.”
The company, which began in Dallas, expanded to Houston in 2010. Its Houston office is located in the Heights at 448 West 19th St. There are also 911 Wildlife offices in Austin, Denton, Fort Worth and San Antonio.
Bradshaw said most of the company’s staff members have construction experience.
“Our technicians need to be comfortable working on roofs and under crawl spaces because that’s where most of the animal entry holes are,” Bradshaw said. “Each employee receives several months of in-depth training in wildlife biology and behavior.”
Most of 911 Wildlife’s business involves trapped snakes, birds, opossums, skunks, raccoons and squirrels. In Houston, Bradshaw said the company receives significantly more calls about bat colonies in apartment buildings.
Removal services do not typically extend to coyotes or bobcats.
“We solve coyote and bobcat problems by teaching homeowners how to reduce the food supply, restrict access to den sites and apply hazing techniques,” Bradshaw said. “The trapping and relocating animals is neither humane nor effective.”
Some seasons for 911 Wildlife are busier than others. The peak is in March, April and May because that’s the birthing season for squirrels and raccoons.
“Lots of homeowners hear noises in the attic and call us,” Bradshaw said. “During those months, we’re booked solid every day from dawn until dusk.”
That was the case with Woodland Heights resident Emily Williams who heard scratching in her ceiling. When she and her husband investigated, they found a raccoon staring out at them from the insulation. It wasn’t alone. The mother raccoon had given birth to three babies.
Williams asked for removal company recommendations on NextDoor and some of the options proposed just didn’t feel right. Williams didn’t want anyone to trap the raccoons or dump them. Someone suggested 911 Wildlife and Williams also saw them listed on the Wildlife Center of Texas website.
“It was a great experience,” Williams said of working with 911 Wildlife technician Nick Freeman. “He ran down the options that were available.”
The one she chose involved the building of a one-way door that would bar the mother from the attic when she left again. Freeman was able to gather up the babies and place them in a reunion box on the Williams’ front porch. Over the next day, they were able to observe the mother carrying them to a secondary, outdoor den. Williams said she appreciated being able to have the opportunity to co-exist with wildlife.
“(Raccoons) have such a tough life already,” Williams said. “I wanted to be respectful. They’re an important part of a backyard ecosystem.”
Bradshaw described the one-way device that was used for Williams. It fits on the entry hole on the roof or under the foundation of the house. The animal exits to find food and isn’t able to re-enter.
“It works much faster than setting a trap and it’s much more humane,” Bradshaw said. “The animal is permanently evicted from the house.”
The company provides customers with a 10-year guarantee.
In urban areas, Bradshaw said raccoons, squirrels, opossums and skunks will have multiple den sites within their home territory – like brush piles or hollow trees.
“We evict and exclude them from human structures and they immediately move to one of their other den sites,” she said.
It may seem counterintuitive, but Bradshaw said most wildlife problems occur in older parts of the city where there are large, mature trees and older homes with maintenance problems.
“New neighborhoods with few trees and brand-new houses rarely have wildlife problems,” Bradshaw said. “Older neighborhoods have up to 50 times more raccoons, squirrels, opossums and skunks. Those animals are generalists that find more food and more den sites in urban areas.”
A lot of the company’s education efforts go toward helping others make their homes and neighborhoods less critter-friendly.
“Most people don’t realize that they often unknowingly ‘invite’ wildlife into their home by providing food and den sites,” Bradshaw said.