Funny story: About a year ago I took my car in for it’s yearly inspection. I knew going into this that my chances of getting my car back with only the inspection and emissions fee were slim to none; my car was old and well-loved and it probably needed a new, well, everything. I was right.
Cut to me unexpectedly having to empty the contents of my old car into my new car (as my old car was being held for a ransom that I just couldn’t justify paying), assisted by two very nice gentlemen in dress shirts and ties. Not only were they privy to the backseat of my car that looks as though a squirrel went on a rampage at the bulk aisle of the grocery store with the amount of nuts, seeds, and cracker bits that my kid drops, but they also got to experience...my trunk.
I tried to politely turn down their assistance, but they were just too nice. So I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and popped the trunk.
The dealership fellas were treated to an array of surgical gloves, plastic bags, goggles, welding gloves, utility knives, a plastic tub with air holes drilled in it, and a bunch of cut-off sweatshirt sleeves of various sizes.
“Dexter. They think I’m Dexter and that this is my mobile serial killer unit,” I thought.
Then came the feathers of probably at least 4 different species, floating into the spring air as we unloaded. And the 3-pound bag of peanuts. And the birdseed. I had some explaining to do.
As you can probably guess, I’m not a serial killer of serial killers. I’m also not that huge a fan of peanuts. What I am is a wildlife capture and transport specialist and, if you are so inclined, you can alarm perfect strangers nosing through your trunk and be one, too!
What is a PA capture and transport specialist and who is crazy enough to be one?
A simple way to describe a capture and transport (c&t) specialist is to liken them to an EMT, but for wild animals. The folks who receive capture and transport training, pass the required test, and obtain their permit through the Pennsylvania Game Commission can then assist the public by responding to calls regarding injured or otherwise compromised wildlife, and transporting those animals to their local veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator.
C&T specialists provide a vital service in that when they field a call from a member of the public about a wild animal, they are on the frontline of the situation. A knowledgeable c&t specialist can determine if the animal in question is indeed in need of help, and, if so, how best to help the animal while keeping themselves, the animal, and the public safe.
There are many times when the “capture” portion of capture and transport is the operative word, because injured or compromised animals don’t always position themselves conveniently. You could find yourself wrangling an animal from a sewer grate or an icy pond, or directing a bird or squirrel out of someone’s fireplace. There are so many creative rescue stories from the world of capture and transport that involve things such as mylar balloons being used to help block an escape route in a sewer grate, or a remote-controlled toy boat that helped to herd waterfowl into the correct location.
The people who go out and do this regularly are pretty talented and amazing–AND they’ve got the best stories at dinner parties. Me? Not so much, although I did split my pants once while wading waist-deep in a creek trying to catch a flighted goose with fishing line wrapped around its leg. My skill level has yet to catch up to my determination.
For fun, I reached out to some members of our Pennsylvania rehabber and volunteer community to answer the following question:
You Might Be a Capture and Transport Specialist If:
911 operators have you on speed dial (Peggy)
You dodge strange looks by bringing your canoe to a pond in the middle of an office complex
You have more towels in your car than in your bathroom
You’ve had a furry or feathered friend spend the night
No air freshener can combat the smell in your car
You’ve swam fully-clothed in a pond or creek
Your dogs think you smell a little funny (3-7, Chris)
Your husband no longer asks what’s in that box in the spare bedroom (Bonnie)
You’ve strapped a cage containing a mink onto a SUP BOARD and paddled it across a lake in order to release it (Franklin, see picture below)
When your garage smells like a vulture (Jenny)
When you have more supplies in your car than an ambulance (Tracie)
You’ve literally been on a wild goose chase...more times than you can count
You've used a trash can lid for protection from an owl attack
Capture and Transport training in Pennsylvania occurs a few times a year. Our friends at Red Creek Wildlife Center hold periodic training sessions–check them out here!
As always, many thanks to the wildlife rehabilitators who tirelessly care for PA's wild animals, and an extra special thank-you to the capture and transport specialists who help them! If you would like to Help Us Help Wildlife, please DONATE HERE !