KING WILLIAM — Longtime wildlife trapper Marshall "Smokey" Stover traps everything from bats and birds to beavers and predators on a daily basis.
Stover is a licensed trapper with 57 years of experience who was also the first trapper training instructor in Pennsylvania. He has owned and operated the business Wildlife Control of Virginia, a company based out of Aylett that traps nuisance wildlife for individuals and companies, for five years.
Stover receives about 30 calls a week from customers. Their main complaints are with bats, flying squirrels and snakes, but Stover is also licensed to trap beaver, bobcat, coyote, fox, mink, muskrat, nutria, opossum, otter, raccoon, skunk and weasel.
Wildlife Control of Virginia goes beyond strictly trapping and also features quality deer management and assistance in setting up a wildlife habitat, or water, humming bird or butterfly gardens.
Stover also works and holds seminars in the optics and hunting departments at the Bass Pro Shops location in Ashland.
According to Stover, real trapping does not involve "sensational" techniques seen on shows like Animal Planet's "Call of the Wildman."
"It's not good for the trapper or the animal control agent, and it's certainly not good for the wildlife," explained Stover.
Stover's company, which he operates independently with helpers for repair and hard labor, comes to the individual or company's property to identify the animal.
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries requires licensed animal trappers or homeowners to euthanize trapped nuisance wildlife due to issues associated with relocation.
However, Stover does not euthanize endangered or threatened species, including bats, unless the animal has a disease.
He refers any problems with feral cats or dogs to Animal Control.
Regarding issues such as ground hogs hurting the property, Stover will install a trap that will euthanize the animal if there are no small animals or children around the premises. He will then place wiring around the area to protect it from further harm.
If there are small pets or children around the property, Stover will set up a live trap.
Stover checks the traps installed on property every 24 hours. He shows property owners where the trap is so they can check it at their own convenience and call him as soon as possible if they find an animal.
Amy Whittaker, who owns a small bird farm in Hanover with her husband David Sr., said Stover's trapping has helped save their chickens, peacocks, ducks, guineas and turkeys on the farm that have been in her husband's family for more than 50 years. The farm has issues with fox, skunk, opossum and raccoon that try to eat the birds.
"When I have a problem, I give [Stover] a call and he's very punctual. He's very thorough and observant of walking through and finding where you're coming from," Whittaker said.
Whittaker said Stover has even taken her young son "under his wing," teaching him about trapping and serving as a mentor.
Stover grew up with a number of trapping mentors himself, including his father and grandmother.
One of Stover's proudest trapping moments is when he caught his first fox after two years of trapping as a child in Pennsylvania. He learned quickly and soon trapped a number of foxes. His victory was short-lived when one fox figured out every set of traps he made. This battle went on for three weeks, with the fox even defecating on the traps "out of defiance" to Stover.
Stover's grandmother gave him advice on how to readjust the trap, and Stover soon caught him. After trapping the big red fox, Stover noticed the animal had escaped death several times from a .22 gun and two different types of bird or rabbit shots and was missing two toes. All in all, Stover said, the experience was a "battle of the brains."
Stover encouraged prospective customers to contact him by phone at (804) 316-4232, by email at email@example.com or on Facebook. He also welcomes anyone with concerns about trapping to contact him.
Lundberg can be reached by phone at 804-885-0042.