Monday, October 25, 2010

Home Owner's Essential Guide to Bat Removal by Michael Koski

I received this publication by Michael Koski who operates sometime ago and I am finally reviewing this publication.

As the title suggests, it is a quick explanation on the management of bats written in a way for non-professionals to understand. It's a PDF publication (meaning it can be sent via e-mail). It's only about 48 pages long (8.5x11 inch pages). The large font size (maybe 14 point or more), photos, bibliography, and large headings, combine to make the 48 pages read like 20.

Bats scare homeowners. They worry about the cost, the risks, and the mess of feces and urine. Mr. Koski endeavors to lessen the tension by presenting information in a non-crisis manner. He openly tells readers that their bat situation is likely not serious. He walks readers through the process of identifying the presence of bats, species of bats, bat biology, bat risks before discussing control.

Unsurprisingly, he explains the pitfalls of do-it-yourself bat control and the risk of hiring unqualified bat controllers to do it for you. While cynics may consider these comments as self-serving, the fact is Mr. Koski's advice has much merit. Homeowners with bat problems do need to properly consider their options and avoid the pitfalls Koski's lists. Note, my agreement with some of Koski's points is in no way to be interpreted as an endorsement of his company. I don't know whether his company is qualified or not. I am saying, however, that his concerns are valid and worth considering. For additional tips and questions for evaluating wildlife damage management professionals visit

I also commend Mr. Koski for teaching readers how to capture lone bats and emphasizing the importance of the need to consider the potential of rabies exposure.

In sum, I believe the book contains valuable information which will benefit readers. The 35 dollar price tag (Oct 15, 2010 price) seems a bit steep to my mind, particularly when it is just a download. Nevertheless, while much of the information is available for free at the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Managmeent, it isn't packaged as succinctly as Mr. Koski has done.So if your time is very valuable, then his booklet will certainly save you time.

Stephen M. Vantassel is a Certified Wildlife Control Professional (CWCP) with the National Wildlife Control Operators Association ( and author of Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Euthanasia and Wildlife Control Operators

Euthanasia (which means Good Death) is technically defined as a technique that causes the death of an animal while it is unconscious. For instance, drowning would not be euthanasia because the animal would be aware of its dying. But who decides what methods meet the standard? One commonly appealed to group is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)which has created guidelines that have been revised over the years. The AVMA guidelines is also a favorite of animal rights groups.

At this point you may wonder how all this impacts wildlife control. The answer is that animal rights groups have been trying to use cruelty laws written for domestic animals to apply to the capture and control of wildlife. Since some states have laws/regulations stating that wildlife control operators kill wildlife in a humane way, animal rights groups have the potential to bring lawsuits against wildlife control operators for using euthanizing techniques not allowed by the AVMA. Thankfully, animal rights groups have been generally unsuccessful in getting the legal system to apply domestic animal laws on wildlife, but if cultural trends continue, this situation will likely change.

Recently, the National Wildlife Control Operators Association was successful in publishing the results of a review panel on euthanasia techniques suitable for wildlife control operators. While the article lacks the depth of the AVMA panel reviews, this publication is a first step in creating guidelines from an industry perspective.

You can read this article entitled "Euthanasia methods in field settings for wildlife damage management" by Timothy J. Julien, Stephen M. Vantassel, Scott R. Groepper, and Scott E. Hygnstrom for yourself.

Stephen M. Vantassel was a professional wildlife control operator and now provides wildlife control information to the public at the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management. He is also the author of

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Killing Tradition by Simon J. Bonner

People usually discuss the topic of animal rights from an ethical, scientific, or pragmatic point of view. The rightness or wrongness of the positions is discussed in a courtroom like style assuming the conversation has not devolved into a shouting match.

Killing Tradition by Simon J. Bonner approaches the topic from a decidedly different perspective. He, a folklore specialist, investigates the controversy like an anthropologist who has just discovered an unknown tribe of aborigines. Bonner studies the oral and behavioral traditions of hunters and anti-hunters in order to better understand their respective beliefs that gave rise to those traditions. Rather than studying their self-declared rationalizations for their position, he looks more at their customs and actions. Ultimately, Bonner details the behavior and interactions of the members of these groups and then constructs a framework that explains how the members of each group perceive the world. Bonner states, “I probe the way symbols and rituals are formed, enacted, gendered, and reshaped in animal rights controversies to deal with foundational traditions that appear to simultaneously destroy and regenerate life” (2009, p.11).

In his analysis, Bonner tries to remain neutral and objective. He is generally able to keep his opinions out of the book by focusing on the description and explanation of the positions rather than on an evaluation. Bonner does not allow the reader to duck the hard questions though. He explicitly forces the reader to consider questions such as, How much say should urban residents have over how rural residents use their land?, and To what extent should landowners have control over their land?

To illustrate the cultural divide between hunters and animal rights activists, Bonner discusses deer hunting, pigeon shooting, and hare coursing (i.e., a competition among greyhounds involved with chasing and directing hares in a large enclosure). The first two topics occur in an American context, while the third provides an international flavor by delving into a very controversial debate in England. Bonner approaches each topic in a similar fashion. He begins by establishing the cultural stage for the tradition by providing background information including statistics regarding the tradition, an outline of the tradition’s role in society, and the controversy surrounding the tradition. Then Bonner transitions to the specific customs inherent in the tradition. For example Bonner describes how shirt-tail cutting, blood smearing, and hunting stories function within the deer hunting culture. Finally, Bonner analyzes the customs to explain their place within the broader hunting tradition, their role in maintaining order in the community which supports hunting, and their intellectual role in buttressing the community’s worldview. Throughout this analysis, Bonner presents the views of the animal rights community and why it believes the hunting tradition should end.

I found the folklore approach to be, at times, bewildering yet intriguing. I questioned the strength of the connection between behavior and belief: How does one’s behavior accurately exemplify their understanding of the world? For instance, is it really appropriate to investigate the traditions of Christmas in order to evaluate the Christian doctrine of Jesus Christ? I was embarrassed by Bonner’s employment of sexuality, which seemed almost Freudian, to interpret the symbolism of hunting practices. For instance, he interpreted the custom of cutting the shirt-tail of a hunter who overshot a deer as homo-erotic by arguing that the custom exploits the masculine fear of having one’s buttocks exposed to other men (p. 44). In addition, he saw the cutting ceremony as a form of symbolic castration, adding additional humiliation to the victim.

I am not convinced that Bonner’s sexual explanation of hunting traditions accurate. I suggest that the rifle could be understood as an extension of one’s tongue as the hunter is extending his tongue to consume the deer. Readers may smirk at this suggestion, but since ancient warriors spoke of swords as devouring enemies (2 Samuel 11:25), should an oral interpretation of shooting be different? Is a dietary interpretation of guns less reasonable? To be clear, I do not deny that gender plays a role in the controversy. I agree that some of society’s opposition to hunting may stem from the decline in masculine values of toughness (pp.90, 196). However, I deny that masculine behavior is just another way of speaking of sexual intercourse. It should not surprise anyone that different genders express dominion over creation differently. To think otherwise would be to deny the role our gender plays in shaping our identity. I suspect Bonner’s use of sexual analysis was aided by his unfortunate neglect of how the different community’s theological understanding contributed to the opposing views between the groups. I also think Bonner should have supported his claim regarding the guilt hunters feel after a kill (p. 81). I suggest that the emotion he called “guilt” could easily be identified as the sadness of the hunter, who was reminded that he too is mortal.

At times the diversity and complexity of the ideas and customs under discussion can cause the reader some confusion. For example, Bonner argues that hunting exemplifies a male combat ritual (man versus buck) in which the fight is to the death (p. 80). Later, he suggests that hunters oppose anti-hunting legislation out of concern that such legislation violates their dominionist world view (p.91). How should the reader understand the relationship between these ideas? Is one subordinate to the other or do they stand in parallel? I think the addition of concept maps and more subheadings would have assisted reader apprehension of the material.

Readers will find useful, Bonner’s discussion of the sociological indicators of the cultural divide between hunters and anti-hunters, such as the urban-rural divide and the modernist-traditionalist divide. While these cultural issues are mentioned throughout the book, they are dealt with in detail in the last chapter. I want to warn readers that the text is a difficult read. Many of the concepts are abstract and nuanced so reader beware.

Killing Tradition provides helpful insight into how non-hunters may view hunting. If knowing one’s enemy is critical to victory, then reading this text will be essential to promulgating hunting in a society that no longer holds a worldview that is congruent with hunting or other consumptive uses of wildlife. Bonner raises two questions that I find particularly worthy of reflection by those supporting the sporting tradition. I have paraphrased them as: 1) Is tradition alone sufficient justification for killing animals? (p.8) and 2) Do rural communities have the right to be different from urban ones (p.201)? The responses society provides will determine whether we maintain the tradition of killing or whether we adopt the new tradition of killing the hunting tradition.

Stephen M. Vantassel is an expert in wildlife damage management and is a Christian theologian interested in environmental issues and human-wildlife interactions.
He is author of

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fur Takers of America--Trapper's College

I finally made it to the Fur Takers of America's Trapper's College in Indiana this past September. I can only say, "WOW". In brief, it is like a crash course of non-stop information on trapping and wildlife damage management. It was truly amazing how the instructors and program developers could put so much information into a week's time.

Day's start with breakfast at 6:30 A.M. and end at 9:00 P.M. only if you don't want to listen to Rick Shadel's presentation on wildlife damage management from 9:00 PM to 10:00 P.M.

In an age of Death by PowerPoint teaching, the Trapper's College is nothing short of a full experiential learning. The training is straight forward. First the instructors show you, then you go out into the field and actually put into practice what you were taught. Add up the experience of the instructors and the number will be over 800 years of trapping expertise. Let me be clear. If you need something caught, these guys are the people to contact.

How much does it cost? Only $950.00 and that covers food, training, and lodging. If you want to learn about fur trapping this is the place to go.

Stephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACP and graduate of the 2010 Trapper's College.