What to ask before hiring a professional Wildlife Control Operator (WCO)
Before we get to the questions, you need to understand the difference between a Pest Control Operator (PCO), also known as Pest Management Professional (PMP), and a WCO, also known as a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO) or Problem Animal Controller (PAC). A PCO is someone who manages indoor pests like cockroaches, ants or mice and is licensed to apply pesticides. A WCO is someone who manages primarily vertebrate pests (animals with a backbone) with traps, exclusion, repellents, etc. PCOs are licensed through their state’s pesticide regulatory agency. WCOs, if their state licenses them at all, will usually be regulated by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, or Fish and Game Department. Some companies that employ PCOs will also manage wildlife conflicts. You should hire a contractor with experience dealing with your specific issues. The questions below may help you find a reliable and fair contractor.
- Do any of your friends, neighbors, or business associates have any recommendations for WCOs who have done a good job? Sometimes they can help you avoid an unprofessional company.
- Get bids from several companies and select by value, not price. Be wary of special deals. Cutting corners on work quality, or your safety, is no bargain.
- Does the wildlife management professional have all the required licenses? In some states WCOs are required to be licensed. In every state, pest management professionals must be licensed to apply a pesticide including rodenticides or fumigants. There are very specific license categories that are required depending on the pest and where that pest is found as well as the type of pesticide that is going to be applied. If required, WCOs are licensed by your state wildlife agency (the same agency where people obtain hunting licenses). While some states don’t require WCO licenses, many do, and some will list the names of licensees on their respective websites. Pesticide applicator licensing is done through state departments of agriculture, natural resources, environmental protection and in some states at the land grant university. Click here for a directory of state pesticide regulatory agencies.
- Does the WCO have sufficient experience to handle the job? Some jobs may be complex and require specialized equipment. Ask how many years the WCO has been in business. The work done by pest management professionals (PMPs), such as managing termites, mice, or stinging insects, is very different from controlling wildlife. Often PMPs conduct WCO work with little or no wildlife experience. The company should be able to provide references from satisfied clients.
- Is the WCO a member of any professional associations? Professional associations often provide members with information concerning the latest developments in technology, safety, research and regulations. They also require members to follow a code of ethics. While membership does not prove competence, it does show a certain level of commitment to the industry. Do not just take their word for it. Check association websites to see if a WCO is listed as a member.
- Did the WCO evaluate your situation (either on the phone or in person) and provide a few management options? Many wildlife problems can be resolved in several ways. Your contractor should provide you with options and the associated pros and cons for each. Has the WCO suggested long-term solutions? Does the person seem dependable, honest, and trustworthy?
- Is the WCO insured? At a minimum, the WCO should have liability insurance. Liability insurance protects you in the event that the WCO injures someone or damages your property. The WCO should have Workers’ Compensation insurance as well. This insurance protects you from a medical lawsuit if the contractor gets injured at your location. Keep in mind, however, that self-employed individuals may not be legally required to have Workers’ Compensation insurance. Ask to see a Certificate of Liability Insurance before hiring a WCO.
- Does the WCO have a standard contract? Failure to have one is a red flag. Take a close look at the contract, as it should clearly explain the costs, services, and warranties. Click here for an example.
These aren’t the only questions that you may ask, but the ones listed above will help you identify a qualified WCO. You want your wildlife problem resolved correctly at a fair cost. Do your homework and hire a reputable contractor.