Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The National Wildlife Control Training Program

For those of you not familiar with this project, let me provide a little background. Regrettably, most states lack even rudimentary training requirements for the licensing of wildlife control operators (WCO). Part of the reason for this situation is the dearth of training materials and the fact that state wildlife agencies, already underfunded and overworked, don't have the resources to create a program let alone administer it. Our program seeks to correct that. We have created a training program designed to provide beginning WCOs the fundamentals of the trade.

We will provide this training in multiple ways, including print (book forthcoming in January, 2011), online (January 2011) and in person if states desire that. This training will also be open to businesses wishing to train new workers.

The training consists of two main parts. First is the core modules. Core modules are what we believe every WCO should know regardless of where they live. It's written in a manner that makes it suitable for WCOs regardless of their respective state laws.

Part 2 consists of species modules. Each species module will address the biology, damage, and control methods related to that particular species. We anticipate that states or individuals can select which species they want to learn about. This allows individuals to learn about species that they are allowed to control.

The exam at the end will cover the modules that were selected.

In addition, states that wish to work with us, can edit the species modules so that only those techniques permitted in their state are discussed. Biology and range information can also be adjusted to reflect the specific facts in that respective state. These state specific training materials can then be printed and/or provided on-line. States won't have to bear the costs of hosting or modification of materials as the user can bear the full price. What is that price? We don't know at the moment because we are still preparing the document for publication. But we anticipate the on-line training (which will have additional training resources than what can be provided by the book) to be less than 200 dollars which will include the cost of the exam. Of course, advanced training modules will be provided in the future. If you are interested in providing advanced training, please contact me. We want to work with you.

Here is an outline of the National Wildlife Control Training Program

Part 1 WCO Core Training Modules

1. Principles of Wildlife Damage Management – Introduction to principles, definition of concepts, best practices concepts,.

2. Physical Safety - The section on physical safety (like ladder safety) and expand on details related to working in the field dealing with animal capture and certain control techniques.

3. Wildlife Diseases – We discuss personal safety, personal protection equipment, common diseases, and the meaning and problems of zoonotic diseases.

4. Site Inspection – The process and theory of on-site investigation of wildlife damage complaints.

5. Overview of wildlife control methods - The overview of control methods prepares technicians for the control techniques they fill find in the species specific information.

6. Animal Handling—Treatment and capture of free-ranging and trapped animals. .

7. Euthanasia & Carcass Disposal—Killing methods and options for the disposition of carcasses.

8. Business Practices – Overview of standard business practices. This is NOT a how to run you business.

9. Legal and Ethical Issues – The importance of following federal, state and local laws. Demonstration of values, business and personal ethics, the ethical treatment of wildlife (animals in general) in the media.

PART 2 Species Modules


We are excited about this new development. Stay tuned or even better, stop by and see us at NWCOA's convention in New Orleans Jan 13 and following.

Stephen Vantassel, Project Coordinator, CWCP, ACP
Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management
School of Natural Resources
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
414 Hardin Hall
Lincoln, NE 68583-0974 U.S.A.
phone: 402-472-8961
fax: 402-472-2946
email: svantassel2@unl.edu
web site: http://icwdm.org

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Review of The Gettysburg Approach to Writing and Speaking Like a Professional by Philip A. Yaffe

To speak and write well are difficult tasks. Most of us can communicate, but we just muddle through with bloated lines and fuzzy logical connections. Philip A. Yaffe distills his years of writing and instructional experience into easy to grasp principles to help communicators improve their written and oratory skills.
The book is divided into two parts of essentially equal length. Part 1 explains Yaffe’s principles and techniques for improving writing and speaking. In part 2, readers are provided a variety of editing exercises coupled with explanatory-analysis to show how Yaffe’s writing principles are applied. 

As a college professor who struggled, and continues to struggle, with writing, I welcome books designed to assist communicators in improving their craft. Yaffe demonstrates his teaching experience by ensuring his recommendations are both understandable and portioned in short and understandable chunks. This approach reduces the chances of students feeling overwhelmed by a mountain of abstract concepts and data. I am pleased that the author avoided tedious discussions on grammar and punctuation. He was wise to focus on larger structural problems that confront writers. 

The book clearly draws upon journalistic principles such as the inverted pyramid and writing a strong lead. I think these techniques are quite useful and recommend that business and newsletter communicators consider adopting them. I am less sanguine regarding how well those principles will be received by college professors. Academics are a traditional and at times an arrogant lot. They teach students to organize papers by a. defining the problem, followed by an analysis of the evidence, and ended with a strong conclusion. I wonder how professors would respond to a paper written following the inverted pyramid recommendations given by Yaffe. Aside from the organizational issue, students should carefully follow Yaffe’s suggestions regarding clarity and conciseness. 

Readers will find the chapter on oral presentations just as succinct and principle driven as the one on writing. I strongly recommend the information on using PowerPoint slides. I would just add that speakers should NEVER have a slide with only text. PowerPoint slides are a visual medium. Images and iconography should be used to a. help you reduce the amount of text and b. to provide a visual symbol to reinforce the concepts of your text. 

In sum, Yaffe has collected some useful principles to help writers and speakers communicate briefly and clearly. Despite its business and journalism focus, it is still useful for students in academic settings. 

Stephen M. Vantassel is a tutor at King’s Evangelical Divinity School. His latest book is Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations. (Wipf and Stock, 2009). 

Have a book you would like reviewed? Contact Stephen M. Vantassel at http://www.stephenvantassel.com

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Calvin Klein's "Obsession for Men" as a Feline Lure

In a recent edition of The Wildlife Professional (Fall, 2010 p.89), a report titled "Big Cats Fall for "Obsession"" sourced from The Wildlife Conservation Society explains how men's fragrance "Obsession for Men" has been found to be highly effective in luring large cats. It's use at the Bronx Zoo found that trees sprayed with the fragrance were highly attractive to cheetahs. Cheetahs spent over 11 minutes rubbing trees sprayed with the product and only 10 minutes for trees sprayed with Nina Ricci's "L'Air du Temps" and only 15 seconds for Revlon's "Charlie."

Researchers in Guatamala have also used "Obsession for Men" to lure wild cats (Jaguars) successfully, finding it is 3x more effective than other lures in bringing cats to photo traps. 

The article said "Obsession for Men" costs 60 dollars for 4 ounces which I have confirmed in a web search. You may find lower prices but look carefully at the ounces as the product is also sold in 2.5 ounce bottles.

My question is "Will it work on free-range house cats?" which everyone knows are an environmental menace.

Stephen M. Vantassel's research interests include wildlife damage management and environmental theology. His latest book is Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: Mammal Detective by Rob Strachan

Although written for a British audience, Mammal Detective is a worthy read for naturalists and wildlife observers in North America as well.

In this short text (it's only a 128 pages), readers learn about theory and practice of wildlife observation and sign reading. Strachan begins by discussing the skills and equipment needed to "see" and interpret animal behavior from their sign by using the model of human criminal investigations. Readers are taught how to observe wildlife secretively and to appreciate that not all animals are equally observable. Strachan provides full-page line drawings to show where sign will most likely be found in three different environments (woodlands, watercourses, and fields).

Part two addresses the clues animals leave. Here Strachan explains how to identify animals by tracks, droppings, shelter, and the remains of feedings. He uses an educational technique called "Identity Parades", which are lists and figures of key elements of animal identification, to help readers properly identify wildlife they might see in the British Isles. I think this educational method would be quite useful for authors to use in discussing American wildlife or in taking notes on their own field observations.

Aside from the splendid line drawings and easy to understand writing, this text is full of little informational gems that make the book worth the price. For example, Strachan has chapters on identification of wildlife by eye shine, hair, skulls, and teeth. His simple, not simplistic, explanations provide readers with necessary background to understand more technical texts on hair, skull, and tooth identification. While academically trained biologists may be bored, educators and the uninitiated will be grateful for the pedagogical method employed by Strachan.

Nuisance wildlife control operators will find this text useful in helping them to broaden their awareness of animal sign. I only wish the book contained tips on writing down one's observations. Nevertheless, if you want to expand your sensitivity to wildlife sign, consider this text. It has a useful index and suggestions for further reading, even though they focus on the wildlife of the Britain.

Stephen M. Vantassel is an expert in wildlife damage management. His latest book is Dominion over Wildlife? An Environmental-Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations (Wipf and Stock, 2009).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Christians, the Care of Creation, and Global Climate Change---A Review

Christians, The Care of Creation, and Global Climate Change is yet another work dedicated to exhorting Evangelical Christians to take environmental issues seriously and more particularly, to support efforts to reduce behaviors contributing to global climate change.  

The book is a compilation of a series articles separated into two sections. The first section contains articles from a panel discussion on global climate change that occurred at Wheaton College (Chicago) in 2007. The articles confront the difficulty in proving that humans are in fact responsible for climate change and that greenhouse gasses (Carbon dioxide in particular) are responsible for such change. Ultimately, the authors suggest that the evidence, though short of proof, is so overwhelming that one must be ideologically motivated to deny the evidence and the resultant conclusion, namely humans need to act now to reduce carbon emissions in order to forestall a global environmental catastrophe. Since it is written for Christians by Christians, frequent appeals to helping one’s “poorer” neighbor and caring for God’s creation are repeated in evangelistic fashion.
Articles in the second section cover the transition at Wheaton College, a major evangelical school of higher education, from being neutral on the subject of climate change to a supporter of those wearing the mantle of being “green”.  The articles explain why Conservative Christians need not be afraid of science, the problems presented by opportunity cost in trying make “green” choices, and why Evangelical Christians have historically been silent on environmental issues. 

On the positive side, the book does a pretty good job explaining the theory of Global Climate Change and how it relates to greenhouse gasses. I thought the authors, though true believers, did a responsible job in not overstating the significance of the Climate Change evidence. I also appreciated the candor of Ben Lowe who in his article “An Unlikely Tree Hugger” forthrightly acknowledged the complexities surrounding the decisions related to making green choices.  

Overall, however, I was rather disappointed with the text on a number of fronts. First, the authors never thoroughly engaged all four questions posed by the ACTON Institute regarding global climate change that are critical to any moral discussion on the subject. I will paraphrase them for readers here. 1. Is climate change occurring? 2. Is it a bad thing? 3. Are humans the cause? 4. Can we do anything about it? To be fair, the authors dealt with the first three questions, albeit not with equal fervor or balance. For example, rising oceans will negatively affect island countries but warmer temperatures will help extend growing seasons elsewhere. Question 4 was only touched upon. I recall reading where even if the Kyoto Treaty was enacted as written (without Nations reneging on their deals), we would only push out the consequences 5 years.  In other words, we have so much carbon in the system now, that even if our output of additional carbon was neutral (a monumental challenge) we would still bear the effects that are called catastrophic by the global warming folks. So my question is, if the boat is going to sink anyway, is there any real value in trying to bail water with a spoon? Or would your time be better spent trying to make plans for the inevitable?

The second problem stems from the authors trying to burden Christians with yet additional moral laws. I find it interesting that fundamentalists are always being accused of being legalists and adding rules to the faith. Yet, here we have non-fundamentalist Christians seeking to do the same. Every time I want to drive my car do I have to stop and think, “Is this trip worth killing the planet for?” Is this what Christ meant when he said His yoke was easy and his burden was light? In the same manner, did the conference sponsors consider the impact the conference and book publishing would have on the environment? Or did they think it was necessary to burn fossil fuels and kill trees for a bigger cause? I don’t doubt the sincerity or dedication to Christ of the individuals involved. I consider myself a rather radical environmentalist (e.g. I believe the U.S. should ban new road construction and simply fix what we have), but I don’t see stewardship in the way these authors seem to. Stewardship involves my time and resources. Sure it may be nice to recycle. But if it costs you more in dollars and time than the value of what you protect, how does that honor God? In fact, one wonders if the effort to recycle some items actually increases overall damage to the planet. 

To be sure not every decision can be or should be seen in dollars and cents, but certainly it must play an important part because economics is really about resource management. I was also disappointed that the authors didn’t consider how the immorality and godlessness in parts of the world affected their environmental condition. Scripture is replete with stories of how the land suffered not because of poor farming practices but because the people failed to be honest etc. One need only think of the corruption rampant in many African countries to see how corruption has environmental effects. I think Christians need to be cautious of adopting a deistic view of God when we discuss environmental issues. 

Certainly much more can be said on this important topic. I would just conclude by noting that the subject merits a deeper conversation. Additionally, I would add a reminder that many people who do not accept the theory of global warming may be good environmentalists and care for it. The issue is not whether we should care for God’s creation, but how such care should be administered.

Stephen M. Vantassel is a tutor of theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School. He specializes in environmental-theology. His latest book delves into the animal use and animal rights debate.

Monday, November 1, 2010

How NOT to Catch a Mouse

I was very disappointed when I saw the October 2010 issue of Men's Health Magazine. In their How to Do Everything Better column was an article entitled "Catch A Mouse---Alive!" p. 84. The article describes in cartoon column fashion how to use pencils, peanut butter, packing tape, section of cardboard, and a bowl to capture a mouse.

Whether the technique works or not, I don't know. My hunch is that its efficacy is at best subject to numerous misfires. The problem with the article lies in its suggestion to translocate the mouse 100 feet away from the house. While such advice is to be expected from the advisor (a PETA member), no mention was made regarding the likely trauma would be experienced by the mouse that has just been transported away from its winter cache. The suggestion to release the mouse is another example of "feel good" advice trumping true compassion. You may think that a chance of survival beats a  certain death sentence but evidence from the translocation of other species strongly suggests that translocation of mice is actually quite cruel (consult http://icwdm.org for details).

Whether you are convinced or not about the humanness of mouse-translocation, the environmental argument is unquestionable. House mice (Mus musculus) is an invasive species in the U.S.. House mice were not original inhabitants of the country and their introduction (likely accidental) is detrimental to human-health and safety as well as native species. House mice should never be moved; they should be killed. They don't belong in the U.S. House mice are responsible for significant damage to crops and structures. On islands, their impact is more noticeable (at least it has been studied more) is also significant.

Hopefully in the future, the editors of Men's Health will provide scientifically and environmentally sound advice to their readers rather than the stooping to the desires of sentimentality; nature deserves better treatment. Just as you don't give cotton candy to a kid just because it will make him feel good, we shouldn't translocate house mice. After all someone has to be the adult.

Resources to Consult
Environmental and Economic Costs of Nonindigenous Species in the United States
Author(s): David Pimentel, Lori Lach, Rodolfo Zuniga, Doug MorrisonSource: BioScience, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 53-65Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological SciencesStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1313688Accessed: 18/10/2010 22:24. Article describes house mice as invasive.

Mice, Rats, and People: The Bio-Economics of Agricultural Rodent Pests Author(s): Nils Chr Stenseth, Herwig Leirs, Anders Skonhoft, Stephen A. Davis, Roger P. Pech, Harry P. Andreassen, Grant R. Singleton, Mauricio Lima, Robert S. Machang'u, Rhodes H. Makundi, Zhibin Zhang, Peter R. Brown, Dazhao Shi, Xinrong Wan Source: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Vol. 1, No. 7 (Sep., 2003), pp. 367-375
Published by: Ecological Society of America. Paper discusses impacts and ways to improve control of a variety of species for S.E. Asia.

House Mouse by Robert Timm in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Editors, Scott E. Hygnstrom, Robert M. Timm, Gary E. Larson. 1994. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2 vols.
Article provides a quick review of damage to both crops and human structures.

Stephen M. Vantassel is an expert in wildlife damage management and a frequent critic of the animal rights protest industry for it anti-environmental stance. You can read his latest book Dominion over Wildlife (see image at left) which discusses the arguments used by Christian animal rights activists.