Animal Control Company Uses Robots

Kyle Perry gets a lot of phone calls from raccoons. And sometimes squirrels and skunks give him a ring as well.

No, he is not a modern-day Dr. Doolittle. He’s an animal control agent with an inventive streak.

And among his innovations is a trap that automatically calls a designated number when an animal has been captured.

“They say if you build a better trap, they’ll beat a path to your door,” said Kevin Perry, Kyle’s father and the founder of Perry Le Pews Wildlife Management Co. “And we really have.”

Kevin Perry, a self-described “humane-iac,” started the wildlife management business in 1982, determined to provide services that evicted troublesome critters without shooting, poisoning or otherwise killing them.

Over time, however, it became clear that even conventional approaches to capturing and releasing animals did not suit his definition of “humane.” Animals left in traps for hours were exposed to the elements and would often injure themselves and the equipment in their struggle to break free.

“You get there and find the animal has beat itself up,” Kevin Perry said. “I used to come home and I’d be depressed.”

Even in the early days, he envisioned a system of technologically advanced “capture units” that would improve the safety and comfort of the animals he removed. But he lacked the knowledge to bring these ideas to fruition.

Then, around 2002, his son joined the family business.

And one day, while looking through the company’s filing cabinets, Kyle Perry came across his father’s plans for automated traps. They immediately made sense to him.

“I was driving out to Truro, checking the traps, finding nothing and getting flustered,” he said. “Without the equipment communicating with us, the business was kind of in the Stone Age.”

Having studied electrical work at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School and worked as an electrician, Kyle Perry set about making prototypes of his father’s designs. Three years of field testing and tweaking later, the robotic equipment was ready to go.

The resulting systems — there are separate designs for raccoons, squirrels and skunks — have two main components.

The first is essentially a mechanized box, with one open end, which is positioned against the hole from which the animal leaves the building — a chimney, attic window or other aperture. When the animal enters the chamber, it disrupts an infrared beam, signaling a door panel to close over the open end.

Within 10 seconds of sensing the animal in the chamber, the device also places a call, alerting the company that the creature has been captured.

To protect the animal from the weather, a heating element automatically activates if the temperature in the unit drops below 40 degrees; above 60 degrees, a fan comes on.

When a Perry Le Pews employee arrives at the house, he moves the chamber with the captured animal, placing it on top of a separate structure in the yard. The animal is then released into this structure, which acts as its home base as it searches for and prepares a new den in the area.

If there were babies living with the mother in the home, the babies are removed manually and placed in a heated chamber in the lowest part of the structure in the yard.

Generally, Kevin Perry said, once placed in the man-made structure, the animals will move out and into a more appropriate home within days. In the meantime, Perry Le Pews will install preventative measures, such as chimney caps, on the home, to prevent the animal from just moving back in.

For homeowners who don’t want to destroy animals, this type of relocation is the only allowed under state law, largely because of the possibility of spreading rabies or other diseases.

Furthermore, “if you move them far enough away, they don’t know where the food and the water and the shelter and the cover is,” said Marion Larson, from the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. “It’s not in the best interest of the animal.”

The strategy does not seem to deter customers, however, said Kevin Perry. The whole process is explained to every potential client, he said.

“We very rarely have a refusal,” he said.

All of Perry Lew Pews’ devices are solar-powered, in keeping with the business’ goal of being both ultra humane and environmentally friendly.

Despite the advanced technology involved in the traps, the company’s services are actually less expensive than many competitors, Kevin Perry said. The communication with the devices allows the business to save gas money by tending to the traps more efficiently and the mechanization of the process means less manpower is needed.

“Your second man is the robot,” Kyle Perry said.

Because of these cost savings, the company charges $275 for a standard raccoon removal — around half of what many competitors charge, Kevin Perry said.

And beyond the financial impact, the trapping technology also helps remove animals more humanely, he said.

The phone call notification allows them to move mothers and babies more quickly, which increases their chance of survival; the company hasn’t had an animal die during the removal process in years, Kevin Perry said.

Even the automated door on the trap is calibrated to avoid any possible injury to the animal.
“It closes very slowly so her tail won’t get caught,” Kevin Perry said.

These high-tech traps are at the front of a trend that’s been growing for the last couple of years, said Laura Hadjuk, of the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

“It is an emerging way of trapping,” she said. “As technology for everything else is expanding, it’s kind of making its way into the trapping world as well.”

And Perry Le Pews is positioning itself to take advantage of this development.

Kyle Perry is currently working on prototypes of smaller traps — appropriate for mice, moles and other tiny creatures — using electromagnetic technology instead of infrared.

“We’re adapting some of our techniques and technologies to smaller animals,” he said.

They have also developed a device intended to ward off coyotes using lights, a recording of mountain lion sounds and the scent of mountain lion urine. And “Le Swan” — a remotely controlled device intended to scare off geese and prevent them from returning — is now undergoing field testing.

And the company hopes to expand its reach by franchising the Perry Le Pews concept and equipment. The goal, said Kevin Perry, is to have at least two franchises in operation within two years.

And while this expansion would have business benefits, it would also serve a higher purpose, said Kevin Perry.

“We just think we’re saving the world,” he said with a smile.

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