National Geographic isn’t usually the place for matchmaking, but that’s where Johnson Lane residents Carl and Heather Lackey got their start.
While filming separate episodes of Animal Extractors in 2006 featuring Heather’s work with rattlesnake removal in California and Carl’s work with nuisance bears in the Sierra, National Geographic crew members suggested the two meet.
“It was all I could do to keep him from chasing me after that,” Heather, 39, joked. “Once we met each other and I got to know him, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy unless I was with Carl.”
Heather moved to Carson Valley in 2007, and the two married the following year.
Wanting to keep working with wildlife, Heather started Carson Creature Catchers that same year.
“I told her there was a need for nuisance wildlife control, so she started the business,” said Carl, a 49-year-old biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
Heather captures and removes raccoons, skunks, badgers, beavers, snakes, bats and other critters from homes and business in the Reno, Tahoe and Carson City areas.
“I grew up hiking with my dad and holding gopher snakes, so it wasn’t something I was afraid of,” Heather said of her job. “Every single day is different. I get to solve problems for people who can’t solve it themselves. It’s challenging and a lot of fun.”
Along with Carl’s adult son, Nolan, the Lackeys have two young sons together, 5-year-old Tristan, or “Spud,” and 3-year-old Brogan, or “Munch.”
“It’s a challenge having two little, active boys, and we both get called out any time of day,” Carl said of balancing work and family.
In order to instill their love for wildlife in their young sons, the Lackeys take them to work as much as possible.
“Tristan helps me bait traps and check traps. He likes it. He knows more about wildlife than most adults do,” Heather said. “We teach them to respect the animals and about safety.”
“They understand the difference between reality and Disney,” Carl added. “They know mountain lions eat deer and bears eat squirrels.”
Since January, Carl has captured and released nearly 100 black bears, and Heather has done nearly 1,500 removals, keeping them both busy.
“We make when we’re together about the family rather than work,” Heather said. “The boys do ask what kind of animals we caught that day.”
As for worrying about his wife catching poisonous snakes and potentially rabid raccoons, Carl said he has the utmost confidence in Heather’s abilities.
“She knows what she’s doing, so I don’t worry about her,” he said. “A lot of people don’t think a cute little blonde girl can do what she does.”
“Sometimes guys don’t like it when a girl shows up to solve their problems,” Heather said. “They ask if I have backup, and that’s when it’s fun to have Tristan with me.”
Carl has worked as a wildlife biologist for 20 years. He specializes in population management of fur-bearing animals.
Heather can be reached at www.carsoncreaturecatchers.com or 775-315-7124.