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A Conversation with David Collura

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David Collura has been a professional trapper for four years, ridding the county of invasive, sometimes rabid wild animals. Collura, 47, lives in Elizabeth Township and is director of the Allegheny County Conservation District -- a state agency - as well as the Peters Creek Watershed and Tri-Community Anglers. He traps for many Mon Valley communities who have hired him, as well as anyone who calls (412) 384-0823.

 

How did you begin trapping wild animals?

I've been trapping since 1976. I trapped with some Indians in college in Wisconsin. Mainly trapped for money. Especially back then, the furs were worth something.

 

But something else must attract you.

The outdoors life. I farm. I have a degree in agriculture. I'm very involved with agriculture concerns. As fewer and fewer people hunt and fewer and fewer people trap, there's more and more demand.

 

What's your most common catch?

People hate groundhogs in their gardens, raccoons in their garbage cans and skunks spraying their yards. In the southern suburbs, we get a lot of poison snakes. Skunks are the big moneymaker for me, because of the annoyance factor -- destroying the lawns and spraying the dogs.

 

What's the most unusual animal you've captured?

I had an owl call this year in Jefferson. The owl was in the living room, sitting on the mantelpiece, exactly like a carving. Netted it, took it outside and released it. I've had police calls for crocodiles and alligators ... in houses with drug dealers.

 

We've had two bats in our city house. What did they want?

They may be looking for a new nesting site, or they may have been attracted by bugs, if you have a porch light on and the moths are all fluttering. I've had houses with three to four hundred bats in them.

 

Inhabited houses?

Yes. They came underneath the soffit and fascia. I've found them in attics. I've had colony sparrows, 50 to 60 sparrows in the attic.

 

What's the toughest animal to trap?

Probably coyotes. There's coyotes all over the area. They're not smart, they're just scared. They're just very leery, like a red fox. In these four years I've probably trapped 30 coyotes. As a state pest-control agent I'm allowed to use snares, which makes it easier.

 

And your least favorite to trap?

Snakes in attics. It's cramped so I can't maneuver, and the snake can, of course, go into a narrow little place. I usually get them to strike at me, then I capture them as they strike.

 

Ever been bitten by anything?

I think those guys on TV who get scratched or bitten by animals are idiots. In 30 years I've never been bitten or scratched. And I've probably trapped, three, four thousand skunks and I've never been sprayed. Until a month ago I drove a Neon. I've driven with two skunks in the trunk and four in the back seat and I've never gotten sprayed.

 

Is it true that animals are more afraid of us than we are of them?

Yes. I've gone on emergency police calls where a rabid animal is attacking people. When I show up the animal leaves, or attempts to leave. They can sense the difference. I hand-catch animals on a daily basis, when there's an emergency call, when the animal is in the house, or too close to the house for police to shoot. I've crawled into attics and hand-caught seven or eight raccoons. I got a skunk out of the library in Clairton without it spraying -- by hand.

 

What do you do with the animals?

I catch them live and remove them from property. Then I follow state regulations.

 

What are those?
Let's not get into that.

 

What animals do you trap in city limits?

I get a lot of calls out of the city for snakes, skunks, raccoons. ... Everything can be found in the city that can be found anywhere else. A lot of deer in the city. I've trapped red fox in the city. I can trap red fox in the city any time I want -- anywhere you have woods. All along the rivers. ... I don't normally trap them down there because that's not something people call to complain about. There's also a beaver problem down in Pittsburgh -- primarily along the Strip. Like, along [the Boardwalk]. They've actually had beavers chasing patrons down there.

 

Well, that's a switch. Speaking of the city - do you trap rats?
No. I just don't like rats.

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