Thank you for all the discussion and all the replies. I think I'll clarify a few points so maybe you can all get a better perspective on why it is so upsetting me.
First off, my mistake, I did some research and although my step-dad (Grandpa) calls them ground squirrels they are Pocket Gophers. Here's an image: Pocket Gopher
. So, yes, they are definitely more harmful than ground squirrels.
There is a lot of background to my relationship with my step-dad that might help you understand why it seemed very inappropriate to me that he took the boys to check the traps and killed the gopher in front of them with a stick.
Growing up my step-dad has always been a very avid hunter. Deer, Elk, Cougar, Moose, Turkey. He lives in the middle of a National Forest and it's an itty-bitty town where 90% of the population are hunters. It's definitely one of the main reasons people live in this town. So, long ago, my step-dad and Mom (I call them my parents because my Dad passed away when I was 21) asked me to get a moose permit. In Idaho you can only get one moose permit per lifetime and my sisters, my Mom, and my Step-Dad all got moose permits and used them. My family eats mostly meats that they have hunted. I do not have a problem with people hunting responsibly for meat and I don't have a problem eating it but I never would be able to kill an animal myself. I've always had a very sensitive spot for animals and have never been one that could deal with witnessing an animals death. My parents, especially my step-dad, really wanted me to get a moose permit and I have always said "No Way." So, this was always "a thing" for my parents.
Whenever we go for visits there are all kinds of Gun Magazines laying around and my step-dad keeps the shells to his bullets so my boys can "play" with them. This is something I have asked him not to do but he seems to always have the magazines conveniently placed and the bullet shells in a nice zip-lock bag laying around. A little obvious.
I could go on and on about many things that he does to try and get the boys interested in hunting. Last time we were there I was gone for about 3 hours and I found out that Grandpa opened his gun safe for the boys to see his guns while I was gone.
I've talked to him about this and he knows that I do not want the boys interested in hunting and killing animals at this early of an age. Ideally, I don't want them interested at all but if when they get older, they take gun safety courses and are really wanting to learn to hunt then I will let them learn from Grandpa.
So, for this incident to happen the one time I leave the house is what really makes me upset. He does think we're "crazy liberals" (his words) and feels like the boys are missing out on an important part of childhood and that they'll be "real" boys if they experience hunting and killing.
I talked to my Mom on the phone last night and she was talking about our next visit and I did say, that we won't be able to come back if this was to happen again.
I know the boys are probably really confused about the situation because my dh and I have always talked about respecting animals. We talk about how animals have feelings. We talk about that they are born from a Mama just like the boys are born from a Mama. We really work hard in building compassion for all living things and showing them the connection of animals and feelings. The main reason we got our 8 chickens this summer is to teach the boys how to care for animals and how much love they can bring to our household.
So, I'm sure it's very conflicting to them to see a live animal hit multiple times with a stick until it's nose is bleeding. I understand that my step-dad did this to relieve this animal from the harm that the trap did but I do not agree that my boys should have been out there checking traps and witnessing an animal being killed with a stick.
The part that is so frustrating is that this seems to conveniently happen when I'm out of the house.
Does that help explain my feelings in my first post? I should have clarified more....
I appreciate all the ideas for talking with the boys about it. It's really helpful to hear ideas for how to explain Grandpa's behaviors compared to how our family feels about killing animals.