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Woman masters business of pest removal

By SHANNON BROCK The State Journal

FRANKFORT - When it comes to wildlife, Joann Mattox has likely seen it all. And if she's seen it, she's probably caught it.

Mattox has owned and operated Joann's Nuisance Wildlife Removal in Franklin County for more than 20 years. She specializes in removing unwanted, pesky wildlife from homes and businesses.

Squirrels, raccoons, skunks, bats, even coyotes - you name it, and she'll remove it.

"I would try anything," Mattox said, when asked about the types of animals she could remove. She will draw the line at exotic animals, though, saying if she's not familiar with the animal, she'd likely pass.

Mattox, 52, of Frankfort, is a 22-year employee of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Her passion for her business, as well as her career with the department, stems from a love of the outdoors.

"I've farmed all my life and hunted," she said. "I love being in the outdoors."

Mattox gained knowledge of trapping animals on her family farm as a young girl. Her mother taught her gun safety and trap setting.

"We used to set box snares for rabbits and set steel traps in the chicken house for any kind of varmint that got in there," she said.

When she was younger, Mattox said she wasn't quite strong enough to set the traps herself, so her mother would set them in advance and Mattox would carry the set traps in a wire bread basket to put them in place.

With her knowledge and experience, wildlife removal evolved into a full-fledged job.

"I started this business on the side, and it just grew and grew and turned into a job," she said.

And this job has had some interesting cases. The oddest location from which she has removed animals is from underneath a bathtub, she said.

At a house, the pipe leading to the bathtub had just enough room around it for a raccoon to crawl through - apparently to give birth to a litter.

"They'd start squealing every time someone took a bath," Mattox said.

She's also run into some animals that became wise to her methods.

Mattox told of a situation two years ago when a client needed to get rid of a raccoon. Mattox went and set a baited live trap on the woman's patio, but night after night, the raccoon would get the bait without throwing the trap.

The woman noticed the raccoon appearing around 7 each night, so she and Mattox staked it out to see what it was doing.

"It would use one paw to hold the trap door open and the other to grab the bait," Mattox said.

To trick the raccoon, Mattox tied down the bait inside the trap. The next time the raccoon came, it used one paw to hold the door, but when the other paw couldn't pull the bait away, it let go of the door and got shut in.

Raccoons are intelligent, Mattox said, and they'll come get food where they know they can find it whether it's in a trap or dog food left on a porch.

"He's just like us," she said. "He knows his way to McDonald's."

The most common area Mattox removes animals from is a chimney.

"I've been in more chimneys than Santa Claus," she said.

And the most difficult place to remove an animal from is a crawl space.

"You don't have much room to work, and they do," she said.

Upon removing the animals, Mattox said she prefers to release them back into the wild.

"But if the customer wants them dispatched, I can do that, too," she said.

Mattox works out of her vehicle and primarily serves Franklin County, but will also take calls from Anderson, Shelby and Woodford counties.

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