The business of wildlife

Under the bed, behind the refrigerator, in the magazine rack of the bathroom: just some places professional animal trapper Heather Gravil has found snakes and other critters hiding out in people's homes.

"Animals are more honest than people," said Gravil. "You know what to expect, and it's a lot of fun."

Gravil recently opened Carson Creature Catchers in Minden. She specializes in the capture of nuisance wildlife: raccoons, skunks, beavers, badgers, muskrats, rattlesnakes, birds, bats and bobcats.

Gravil grew up in Southern California where her father taught her about animals.

"He was a naturalist and we'd take these long walks in the woods tracking deer, raccoons, skunks and snakes," she said. "I enjoy being around animals, helping them and benefiting those people that have problems with them. It's a constant change and always challenging."

At the age of 21, Gravil started her own wildlife trapping business, which led her to Auburn, Calif.

"I worked mostly with rattlesnakes there," said Gravil. "Some skunks and raccoons, too."

Last fall, Gravil was featured on National Geographic Channel's "Animal Extractors" series. Also featured on the show was Nevada Department of Wildlife biologist Carl Lackey, trapping nuisance black bears.

"We talked, and he said he wanted to catch some snakes with me, and I told him I wanted to go after some bears with him," said Gravil. "And he said, 'I got one right now. You want to climb under a mobile home with me and get this bear?' And I said, 'sure.'"

Soon after, Gravil moved to Carson Valley to be with her new fiancé.

"Carl and I are getting married in May," she said.

While Lackey was dealing with a record number of bear calls, Gravil decided to get her business going again.

"Anywhere you have development in a rural area, there are going to be people-animal conflicts," she said.

Gravil said skunks and raccoons are the biggest problems for most homeowners. She also said beavers cause problems for landowners along the Carson River.

"Badgers would be the ultimate to work with, but I haven't seen many of them around," she said. "I know someone up in Sparks had one near their home."

Gravil hasn't yet worked in a Nevada summer and said she's anticipating rattlesnake calls.

"I can't wait. There's nothing like going after snakes," she said.

Gravil's been fortunate in her 13 years of trapping, never having been bit, though she came close one time.

"I was in Auburn getting a 4-foot rattlesnake out from beneath someone's deck," she said. "For snakes, I use a 24-inch aluminum alloy rod, which isn't very long. It came right across my lap. And though it didn't bite, it was still very disturbing."

Gravil said safety is the biggest issue in her line of work.

"You can't be lazy. You have to pay attention at all times," she said. "The safety of the business or home owner comes first, then my safety, then the safety of the animals."

Gravil works on-call and said her schedule is flexible.

"My 5-year-old bulldog, Hercules, comes with me in my truck," she said. "He doesn't get involved with the animals. He just keeps me company."

For more information about Carson Creature Catchers call (775) 315-7124.

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