How to Observe
One fact that any animal damage controller needs to know is how the eye works. Without going into a long biology lesson, let it be said that the only way to really look at something is to pay close attention to it. We can only clearly focus on what we are specifically looking at. You don’t want to inspect with peripheral vision; use your peripheral vision for hunting, not for inspection. Try this experiment. Take a newspaper and lay it out in front of you. Look at the pictures. Now really look at them. Look at them closely. When you begin to see the dots that make up the pictures then you now know how you need to closely observe. When you perform your inspections make sure you pay close attention to the various and typical animal entries. You don’t have to be close to an object, although it helps, to properly inspect it. You just need to look at it part by part and use the narrow part of your focused vision. Only with the narrow vision can you properly determine if there is any animal sign present or not.
- I would strongly encourage you to read Bill McRae’s article “The Art and Science of Spotting Game” American Hunter, April, 1996. Pp. 39-41,61. Publication is made available by the generosity of the National Rifle Association and its author Bill McRae.
- You also have to learn about the mannerisms of animals. My book, The Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, goes into a great deal of detail about characteristic signs of various species implicated in damage in the U.S. The last three lessons as well as this whole course are based on this book.
- I would also recommend purchasing a copy of Paul Rezendes’s book, Tracking and the Art of Seeing. He explains the philosophy and technique of how to look for at the whole picture when evaluating animal sign. Even though he deals with animals in their natural environment instead of the urban environment, his suggestions are easily transferable as he correctly notes that animals rarely leave perfect signs for us to read. You have to look at all the evidence to make a correct decision.
- Another way to learn how to observe is to join NWCOA visit http://www.nwcoa.com and get in touch with a wildlife control operator outside of your service area and ask if you can ride shotgun with him for a day or two. I guarantee you will find the experience very illuminating. This would also be a good idea to do before jumping into this job if you are thinking of a career in animal damage control or if you just want to improve your inspection skills.
©2005 Stephen M. Vantassel