Your Neighbor: For the birds: Derek Tolley runs his own wildlife-removal company

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2019

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By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

Derek Tolley spent his childhood years on the water, fishing with his dad. “I was always outdoorsy,” Derek notes. “My dad started taking me fishing as early as 6 years old. We went every weekend.” Derek enjoyed the time with his dad, but also enjoyed its competitive element. They participated in tournament fishing. “It’s the greatest chess game against Mother Nature you can play,” notes Derek. “There is a lot of strategizing. You pattern the fish and develop your skills through the years.”

This passion meant so much to Derek. His future wife, Lauren, was told in his vows that he would need time to continue this commitment as well. Derek met Lauren after he graduated from high school and was working three jobs. Derek moved furniture, was a customer service representative, and unloaded trucks at night for FedEx. “The economy was good after I graduated from high school, I wanted to start earning money,” mentions Derek.

While Derek was working hard to figure out his next step professionally, he met Lauren Camilliere when he was 20 and she was 21. “We actually met at the Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield fight night. “I knew right away I wanted to be with her. I told her I wanted to take care of her,” remembers Derek.

Derek did realize his future also included continuing his education. Derek enrolled at Catawba College. After Derek graduated, he applied for a sales representative position at Follett Library Resources. “It was my first taste of real corporate business at a high level. I loved the environment of the competitive corporate world,” recalls Derek. During this career change for Derek, he and Lauren welcomed their first child, Wyatt. Two years after Wyatt was born they gave him a sister, Reagan.

As companies do, they experienced layoffs. Derek was affected by the layoff. The silver lining of this initially tough situation was that a friend in Roanoke, Virginia, approached Derek to join a wildlife-removal company. “We were removing skunks from colleges,” explains Derek. Derek would drive from Winston-Salem to Roanoke for his new job. “Once I really learned the industry, I was excited to start my own business, Safe Haven Bird Rescue and Relocation. I chose to focus on birds. Birds are 80% of wildlife issues,” explains Derek. Derek put all of his energy into researching best practices. “I found in Asian countries a technique where they make mist nests to protect their rice fields from birds. We took that technique and engineered an effective and safe way to capture birds,” notes Derek. “If birds aren’t removed from stores they can do a lot of structural damage and contaminate food.”

Derek’s passion for wildlife fueled his knowledge for creating new methodologies.

Derek’s company can be found humanely removing birds and protecting food safety in places like Harris Teeter, Kroger, Winn-Dixie, Coca-Cola, Fred Meyer, and Whole Foods to name a few. “My favorite bird to catch is the mockingbird. They are smart. They know how to break down a facility to generate a pattern, which makes them harder to remove.” You can understand when hearing Derek speak about the different types of birds, the appreciation he feels for them likely stems from his childhood fishing days.

Our neighbor embodies Steve Jobs’ sentiments: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and they only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”