PORT ST. LUCIE PEOPLE
TAYLOR A. RUNK
Lives in: Port St. Lucie
Occupation: Owner-operator of
Rats to Bats Wildlife Removal
Family: Mom, aunt and uncle,
Education: Local schools and
Hobbies: Hunting, hiking, other outdoor activities
Who inspires me: “Teddy Roosevelt: His goal in life was conservation
and parks services, preserving land for wildlife.”
Something most people don’t know about me: “I went skydiving
once, up in Sebastian. I enjoyed it!”
Port St. Lucie Magazine 45
his uncle. By 16, he’d saved enough money to buy his first
car, a 1998 Pontiac Grand Am. He credits his upbringing with
“There was no back-up,” he says. “Nothing was free.”
Growing up in Port St. Lucie with his mother and grandmother,
Runk played baseball and football as a youngster.
“High school,” he says, “is a blur. I got it in my head that I
didn’t need school. I’d just work.”
He soon realized that he’d never be able to support himself
with the type of jobs he could find as a dropout, however.
After Runk returned to school for his diploma, he joined
the military, spending three years with the Florida National
Guard. Although he downplays his own service, Runk prefers
to hire veterans.
“My other full-time technician, Nick Savasta, is a combat
vet, deployed three times, the real deal,” he explains. “Vets
have backbone. I can train them.”
Runk’s goal was to eventually work with the Florida Wildlife
Commission. Instead, he stumbled into the pest control
field, working for a company that is now a competitor. In 2015,
he launched out on his own, using his savings for vehicles,
licenses, insurance, traps and other equipment he needed.
In addition to providing typical pest control service that
must be repeated periodically, the wildlife removal that Runk
offers is more specialized. At times, it is more dangerous. Potentially
fatal diseases are associated with rat droppings, for
example, and rodents make up the bulk of Runk’s business,
requiring the use of HEPA filter respirators.
Bats are a close second in terms of frequency. Raccoon,
opossum, feral hog and even coyote calls are not uncommon.
“There are preventative measures we could take,” Runk
says, “but most homeowners and HOAs don’t act until someone’s
dog is taken or the golf course is rooted up.”
Invasive species are dealt with differently than local animals
or nonnative species that have no negative impact on the environment.
Left unchecked, invasives dominate. Agama agamas,
for instance, originated in Africa, but the common gray lizards
with a red or yellow head have spread quickly in Florida.
“They eat our small lizards and songbird eggs and compete
with local species for food.”
Runk’s staunch belief in conservation is not limited to his
business. Primarily a bow hunter, he travels to Wyoming to
hunt elk and even bear — but not for trophies.
“You have to control animal populations or they annihilate
their own food supplies,” he says. “My type of hunting is for
meat. Bear is actually very good.”
While carrying a 70-pound supply pack miles off the path
to camp for 10 days isn’t everyone’s definition of fun, Runk
says there’s nothing better. Locally, he has hunted alligators
and thinks there should be more licensed python hunters.
“In the Everglades, the number of raccoons alone, has
dropped 99 percent because of pythons.”
Perception is everything — a raccoon in the Everglades
is one thing, one in your attic is another. And perceptions
change with time.
“When you’re young, you think it’s all happening then,”
Runk says. “There’s so much more time than you think. You
can start a career at 30. I truly enjoy doing this every day.
It’s not the nine-to-five grind. I don’t see myself ever doing
anything else.” E
Baby animals like this little raccoon are adorable in photos, but not so cute
in the utility room. A firm believer in conserving wildlife, Runk relocates
such animals to a 40-acre piece of property that he leases.
Florida may be home to 46 species of snakes, but relatively few people are
excited to have them show up uninvited. Runk removes and relocates snakes
as well as other unwanted house guests.