My sons witnessed animal abuse. - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 126 Old 07-07-2009, 08:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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**Warning: this post has details of animal abuse in it so please skip reading it if you feel it could be to upsetting.

I'm not sure if this is the appropriate spot for this post, so if not please feel free to move it.

I have three sons (Ages - 7, 5, and 3). We were visiting my parents at their home for about 4 days. They live in the middle of a national forest and have 45 acres. It is my sons heaven. They swim in the creek for hours, go hiking, watch the deer and elk, ride on the 4-wheeler with their grandparents, go fishing and many more fun activities. They love it there.

My parents are very different in philosophies than we are. They are very old fashioned, conservative and old school in their thinking. They think we're raising the boys in a hippy liberal household, which may be a little true. Overall though we just skip talking about sensitive subjects such as politics and religion and things seem to go smoothly.

So, to get to the point of this post. I went for a run yesterday morning. My step-dad has been "trapping" (which entails killing) ground squirrels because they have been digging up their lawn and digging under the fence of the garden. When I was gone for a run my step-dad took the boys out to check the traps. There was one trap with a squirrel caught in it and the squirrel was still alive.

Last night after leaving my parents house my two youngest boys mentioned to me that "Grandpa caught a squirrel that was still alive so he hit it over the head with a stick many times. The squirrels nose was bleeding. And then Grandpa threw it in the woods to feed the other animals."

Needless to say, I was horrified. I don't know what to do. My parents place is a place that we all love to be and not seeing my Mom, for me, is not an option. My step-dad is very stubborn, especially when it comes to "his ways" and so he's not about to switch things up for me.

How do you communicate with children about this? Especially when it's the one person that they look up to the most. My step-dad is not going to change his ways, I know that. He thinks that I'm crazy that I don't want the boys to learn to hunt and that I don't want them looking through his magazines on Guns and Artillery.

We have a dog at home and eight chickens. We've been working on teaching the boys compassion for all living things. How do you work through something like this? I'm sad to say that I didn't feel like the boys were too horrified by their Grandpa's behavior. They look up to him so much that I fear they think this is OK to treat animals this way.

Anyone have any ideas or thoughts?

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#2 of 126 Old 07-07-2009, 08:11 PM
 
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I don't have any advice, but I wanted to say that I'm really sorry your boys had to see that.

I wouldn't let them go with your step dad to check on his 'traps' though.

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#3 of 126 Old 07-07-2009, 08:57 PM
 
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Was he hitting the squirrel to put it out of it's misery?

I'm totally against trapping animals [unless it's for a food source] but I know that when an animal is wounded I would put it out of it's misery. If that was the case, I'd probably explain that

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#4 of 126 Old 07-07-2009, 09:00 PM
 
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I don't think either your family nor your step dad need to change- can't you just ask that he not involve your kids in activities where animals will suffer?

It doesn't sound like you directly told him you didn't want your kids to see it and he did it anyway, you know?

Ultimately, you can't make your kids have the same values you do; that in itself wouldn't be compassion for all living things (so your kids may not believe hunting is *wrong*, but they can know that it is not permitted on your property or while they are living under your roof, if you feel so passionately about it); so to explain to them your perspective on what your step-father did, and to tell the kids you love and admire him but there are some things he may do which you don't love or admire, seems to be the only thing you can do, right?
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#5 of 126 Old 07-07-2009, 09:26 PM
 
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I think that what you can do about the situation is just, when you talk about it again with them, say something to the effect of "You know, grandpa could have found humane traps for the squirrels that didn't hurt or kill them. That is what I would have done if they were bothering my garden."

Maybe you've dealt with predators or pest yourselves. Point out that these things can be done differently, and you really think there's a lot more benefit to treating animals humanely.

I think that kids can end up thinking it's okay for certain other people to do things (like grandpa) that they wouldn't do themselves or really think are okay either. So I wouldn't put that on this situation - I doubt this incident, or even future similar ones, would make your kids think it's okay to do this to animals. But just understand that this is what grandpa sometimes does to animals. . . sorta different.

I'd be pretty shocked/horrified myself though, knowing something like that happened.
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#6 of 126 Old 07-07-2009, 10:43 PM
 
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IDK. I grew up out in the country and we (DH, DS & I) are currently living with my dad in the house I grew up in. Some animals are just pests, period. Would/do you live-trap mice & rats and let them go back outside your house? Or do you have the normal cheapo rat/mouse traps that usually (but not always) kill them?? Because for many folks groundhogs/ground squirrles, racooons, oppossums, etc are on the same level as mice & rats.

They're pests, and they damage property - in this case your FIL's garden/fence/yard/whatever. We've shot many groundhogs & racoons & opossums around here over the years. Its not something we like doing, but it has to be done - otherwise they crap everywhere, dig up/eat veggies, dig massive holes which are dangerous (especially when on a tractor or riding lawn mower!!), kill chickens, etc. Live trapping and releasing elsewhere is *NOT* ethical with these critters, because they are inevitably just going to be someone else's problem and/or come back to your place in a few days.

Assuming your mom/fil live out in a similar place (which I'm assuming given your description at the beginning of the post), theres no way your going to convince them to live-trap groundhogs and then release them. Its just not ethical to do. That said, hitting them over the head with a stick isn't the ideal way to dispatch them - most people just shoot them.

But really, if you don't want your kids seeing this sort of stuff, either just don't take them, or don't allow them to go check traps with FIL or anyone else. Because if something got caught it almost certainly will be killed. Most people that use live traps tend to kill what they catch too - theres just nothing else to be done with them.
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#7 of 126 Old 07-07-2009, 11:45 PM
 
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Sounds like Grandpa was putting the animal out of it's misery and the other animals would eat them. It's the circle of life.

I don't agree with hunting for sport, but humans have been killing animals for survival for a loooong time.

Your boys don't exactly sound traumatised about it.

I would say, don't let them check traps and just drop the subject unless they want to talk about it.

It's complicated.
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#8 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 12:23 AM
 
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It sounds to me like these squirrels are pests. Have you ever lived where squirrels rip into your house and eat holes in every thing. I have. We used to get all kinds of animals ripping into our house when Dh and I first were together. Pack rats, squirrels, chipmunks, mice-we lived in a cabin and they did tons of damage to our stuff.

Should grandpa have taken the kids out while he was removing the squirrels? Probably not. It does sound a bit graphic, but it also sounds like they are damaging their property. Where I live we have a serious deer problem and I have to say after getting a few hundred dollars worth of trees, and garden plants eaten or ruined I can completely commiserate. Many people who don't live in the country don't understand what it is like to have your garden and hard work decimated in an evening by pesky pests, it sucks.

I really don't think your kids are going to be completely traumatized over this, I know my DD wouldn't be if it was explained to her why it had happened. IDK-I guess living in the country I can understand why he is doing this. It gets really frustrating having your garden repeatedly eaten by animals and not you.

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#9 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 12:30 AM
 
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If your FIL was doing this for fun then I"d consider it animal abuse, but he wasn't & it isn't animal abuse.

There is nothing else he could have done. It was quicker for him to do it that way than to go & get a gun to shoot it. Throwing it in the woods for the animals to eat is just part of the food chain, the same as if they eat the fish that they catch.
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#10 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 02:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I really appreciate all the perspectives here. I completely get where everyone is coming from and yes, I agree pests are hard to live with and they do destroy a lot of property.

It helps me to hear that it doesn't sound as offensive to others and hearing other Mums put it into perspective makes me feel better about my boys seeing it. Yes, I would prefer they hadn't seen this and I'll request next time that they don't check traps with him so now I'm feeling better about it.

You gave me good talking points to discuss the incident with the boys and I really appreciate it. I'll sleep better tonight. Last night I laid in bed and stewed over it.

Thanks!

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#11 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 02:21 AM
 
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I'm glad you are feeling better. Sounds like you are dealing with it in all the right ways, so I am sorry I don't have advice to add. For what it is worth, that would have bothered me in a MAJOR way. Even if grandpa traps and kills the animals, I see no reason for children in one of the ripest stages for the development of empathy and compassion to be involved in any way and to even know about it. I wouldn't necessarily ask grandpa to change his ways, but I would do exactly what you are doing in letting him know he won't be taking my kids out.

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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#12 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 03:14 AM
 
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That sounds pretty horrifying. I wouldn't feel better about it just yet. With such young children it often takes a while for this stuff to get processed. The emotions caused by seeing something disturbing can often surface then disappear rappidly just to pop back up again, like a submarine. Expect the discussion to be brought up again by them, especially the youngest.

I would not excuse what grandpa did. What your step-dad is doing may actually be illegal deppending on where they live. It would definitely be illegal here in NJ, and carry a hefty fine and possible imprisonment. I would talk about how sometimes people we care about do things that are wrong, but that we don't stop loving them simply b/c they do something wrong.

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#13 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 03:23 AM
 
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That sounds pretty horrifying. I wouldn't feel better about it just yet. With such young children it often takes a while for this stuff to get processed. The emotions caused by seeing something disturbing can often surface then disappear rappidly just to pop back up again, like a submarine. Expect the discussion to be brought up again by them, especially the youngest.

I would not excuse what grandpa did. What your step-dad is doing may actually be illegal deppending on where they live. It would definitely be illegal here in NJ, and carry a hefty fine and possible imprisonment. I would talk about how sometimes people we care about do things that are wrong, but that we don't stop loving them simply b/c they do something wrong.
I think if you make it out to be a big deal, it will be. I'm not saying to dismiss the kids feelings, but plenty of people grow up in the country and don't turn out to be disturbed. I remember my Nana telling me about seeing chickens when he Dad would cut their heads off - she definitely wasn't disturbed by it, that's just what happened.

Grandpa was being kind, not cruel. He wasn't torturing and killing animals for pure sadistic pleasure, he was doing what needed to be done. Big animals eat little animals, it's the food chain and the circle of life. Death is a natural part of that. There is a big difference between killing something and abusing it, and I don't think it's a bad lesson to teach kids.

It's complicated.
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#14 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 03:35 AM
 
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Grandpa was being kind, not cruel. He wasn't torturing and killing animals for pure sadistic pleasure, he was doing what needed to be done.
He didn't swiftly dispatch the squirrel by breaking its neck, he beat it repeatedly with a stick.

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#15 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 05:34 AM
 
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He didn't swiftly dispatch the squirrel by breaking its neck, he beat it repeatedly with a stick.
Maybe he couldn't.

It's complicated.
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#16 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 08:09 AM
 
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Was he hitting the squirrel to put it out of it's misery?

I'm totally against trapping animals [unless it's for a food source] but I know that when an animal is wounded I would put it out of it's misery. If that was the case, I'd probably explain that
Yeah, that's the route I would go for explaining to my children.

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He didn't swiftly dispatch the squirrel by breaking its neck, he beat it repeatedly with a stick.
Wouldn't he have been at a greater risk of being bitten, if he grabbed the squirrel's head?

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#17 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 08:23 AM
 
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Personally, I think it was an in your face thing for him to do. He could have sent the boys back inside knowing how you feel about these things. So I guess I'm in the minority of the posters here. I would probably explain the situation as best as you could to your children.

Your grandpa has a problem with the squirrels digging up their yard, but I want you kids to know that hurting an animal like that is not a fun thing to do. It really hurts the animal, and even when animals or people do something wrong they deserve to be treated with kindness. If we ever have a problem with animals destroying our property we will seek out the most humane way to chase them off.

Steps to getting rid of squirrels:
*put your attention on sanitation and property maintenance. Don’t leave pet food unattended. Don’t leave bird seed unattended. Any source of food like nuts and other protein rich substances will attract more squirrels. Removing easily foraged food sources from the environment will make sure squirrels don’t hang around too long.
*Squirrels have natural enemies with one of them being the fox. Because of this, many manufacturers make repellants from fox urine or something very similar smelling. Other manufacturers have other products made to repel the pesty little critters.
*If you want to try something that you can get at your local gropcery store, try moth balls. If you were to search the net for ideas you would read many many instances of people using moth balls to keep the squirrels away. Back a hundred (or two) years ago, moth balls were very popular.
*Something else you might be able to but locally, and use as a repellant, are chili peppers. But the hottest you can find. Habaneras and cascabellas may work also. So buy the peppers, grind them up and stick them in your flower pots or around your garden. Squirrels don't like hot stuff.
(one problem with squirrel propellants (or any animal propellant) is that after a heavy rain they will probably be diluted or washed away, thus necessitating a re-application.)
*To keep them out of your bird feeder, you can buy special bird feeders that tilt or spin when something heavy, like a squirrel, sits on it (as opposed to a bird). Or, you can put baffles on the pole so they can't climb up it.

Or, you can feed the birds something that squirrels don't like. It is said that squirrels don't like safflower seeds because they are too bitter. So, fill your bird feeder with safflower seeds (which is already usually quite common in bird feed) The birds will still come and dine but hopefully your squirrels won't.

Lastly along this same line, instead of trying to keep them out of something, create a feeding area for the squirrels. This could be one of those stands with a cob of corn on - like you must have seen, or containers full of nuts, berries corn or sunflower seeds. Just make sure this 'squirrel feeding area' is far from your garden, house or whatever else you are trying to keep them from.

*One last suggestion to get rid of squirrels naturally is to use a "live trap". A "live trap" is where you catch them safely in a cage and then take them somewhere to release them.
If you do the trapping your self, then you have to get rid of them. As mentioned above, the humane way is to release them. But, you can't just take them outside and let them go.

People say that squirrels have an uncanny ability to find their way back to you. So if you are going to let them go, you need to take them somewhere miles away.


There are a few ideas, none of which require beating an animal in the head with a stick. :
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#18 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 08:26 AM
 
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I think if you make it out to be a big deal, it will be. I'm not saying to dismiss the kids feelings, but plenty of people grow up in the country and don't turn out to be disturbed. I remember my Nana telling me about seeing chickens when he Dad would cut their heads off - she definitely wasn't disturbed by it, that's just what happened.

Grandpa was being kind, not cruel. He wasn't torturing and killing animals for pure sadistic pleasure, he was doing what needed to be done. Big animals eat little animals, it's the food chain and the circle of life. Death is a natural part of that. There is a big difference between killing something and abusing it, and I don't think it's a bad lesson to teach kids.
1) growing up in the country does not equate being exposed to animals being killed via beheading or beaten to death. So, naturally, not all country kids turn out to be disturbed.
2) cutting off a chickens head because you are going to eat it, is different then beating a squirrel in the head with a stick. You can eliminate squirrels without killing them. The squirrel didn't die because a fox ate it. The squirrel died because grandpa thought "hunting" them would be more fun they warding them off.
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#19 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 08:27 AM
 
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this is one of the issues I struggle with myself. We have a lot of issues with animals in and around our garden and yard. DH wants to start hunting (deer) and I'm a little freaked out thinking of the kids seeing and being involved in that. I don't eat meat, but DH could live off venison and the free meat would be a huge bonus for our budget. It's a little different than your situation I know. But some of the people that DH has been taking hunting advice from have this ugly way of talking about killing animals and I would like for my kids to have more respect for life, human or animal. And of course they act like I'm just being annoying when I try to talk to them about it.

I guess I'm trying to say I have no advice, just s

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#20 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 09:48 AM
 
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mommysarah, maybe some of those things 'work' but they all also cost money, on a constant basis. I don't know *ANYONE* who lives out in the country who feeds squirrels. Thats just totally counter productive. Yeah, maybe they goto your 'feeding station' first, but then they go check out the rest of the property. And it attracts the darn things - something most of us try to avoid at all costs.

I honestly can't imagine putting chili pepper or fox urine or moth balls all around our gardens/property. Theres just way too much space to try to 'protect' or 'ward' from squirrels or anything else. The amount of money it'd cost to buy enough to properly 'ward' them off would be huge and highly cost prohibitive.

And, finally, 'live trapping' may work, but where exactly are you supposed to let the darn things go? You say to take them miles away. Great. So now they're somebody elses' problem. People that live out here *HATE* people who trap critters elsewhere and then dump them where they live. Its extremely unethical - because, yeah, now *YOU* don't have to deal with the squirrel/coon/possum, but somebody else does! Now its not your lawn/garden/whatever getting eaten/destroyed its somebody elses. How is that 'fair' or 'nice'?? In some places its actually illegal - just like dumping that stray dog/cat off out in the middle of nowhere is illegal.

Live trapping and releasing elsewhere is *NOT* ethical!!!!
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#21 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 11:03 AM
 
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I would not excuse what grandpa did. What your step-dad is doing may actually be illegal deppending on where they live. It would definitely be illegal here in NJ, and carry a hefty fine and possible imprisonment.
It wouldn't, actually. In NJ (as in many states), it's legal for a property owner to kill squirrels that are causing property damage. However, it is NOT legal in NJ to release trapped squirrels wherever you want. (Of course, there aren't any ground squirrels in NJ. Ground squirrels are similar to chipmunks, and are found in the west and midwest.) In some states, ground squirrels are completely unprotected and can be killed by anyone who wants to kill them for any reason.
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#22 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 11:19 AM
 
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Sounds like Grandpa was putting the animal out of it's misery and the other animals would eat them. It's the circle of life.

I don't agree with hunting for sport, but humans have been killing animals for survival for a loooong time.

Your boys don't exactly sound traumatised about it.
Yep. I would talk to them about it and why grandpa did that. If you don't want your children to see that, don't send them to your parents' house.
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#23 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 11:30 AM
 
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The squirrel didn't die because a fox ate it. The squirrel died because grandpa thought "hunting" them would be more fun they warding them off.
Oh, come on - that's completely unfair. The OP never said anything that implied grandpa was trapping the squirrels for fun.

Here is some interesting information on one type of ground squirrel that might possibly affect the way some people feel about killing them. According to this source:
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Only 5-15% of juvenile male Richardson's ground squirrels survive their first year and reach adulthood. As adults, males have about a 25% chance of surviving each succeeding year. Thus, male Richardson's ground squirrels rarely attain the age of 3 years. In contrast, 35-45% of juvenile females survive to adulthood, and adult females have a 50% chance of surviving each subsequent year. Thus, female Richardson's ground squirrels often live 3 or 4 years, with a few surviving as long as 5 or 6 years.
So sparing a ground squirrel's life doesn't guarantee it will live a lot longer. Chances are, it won't live all that much longer whether or not it gets caught in a trap, especially if it's a male. And if you read further on that page, you'll see that one reason females live longer than males is that they tend to stay in one familiar area their whole lives. So a female that was trapped and released outside of its familiar area presumably would not have a very good chance of survival. Killing it quickly is probably no less humane than releasing it and letting something else kill it.

Of course, grandpa could try other strategies like repellants, but I would be surprised if that ended up being very effective.
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#24 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 12:26 PM
 
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I don't think grandpa should have let them watch or check traps.

I completely understand why grandpa does this. It isn't abuse. Breaking a squirls neck is not as easy as a birds neck. It is much better than him laying out posions.

Trapping and releasing an animal in another area isn't always ethical. Many areas their is animal territories. Also a new area the animal might not have enough food to survive.
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#25 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 12:40 PM
 
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I think you should try to tell them how much your kids adore him, how much you value him being in the boys lives, and then about how they felt about seeing this and asking him to consider killing the animal before or after the boys come over so his relationship with them isn't hurt any more than it has been by this incident. I don't think you should address it as an issue for him to stop or even address how hideous it is to do this, just as something the boys aren't ready to handle right now. If you don't think he will be receptive to this then I think you should address this to your mom instead but don't push for it to stop, just for more sensitivity around the boys.
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#26 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 02:12 PM
 
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It wouldn't, actually. In NJ (as in many states), it's legal for a property owner to kill squirrels that are causing property damage. However, it is NOT legal in NJ to release trapped squirrels wherever you want. (Of course, there aren't any ground squirrels in NJ. Ground squirrels are similar to chipmunks, and are found in the west and midwest.) In some states, ground squirrels are completely unprotected and can be killed by anyone who wants to kill them for any reason.
http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/200...es_pest_c.html
http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/200...le_in_sea.html
http://www.nytimes.com/1994/08/25/op...oo-057940.html

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#27 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 02:49 PM
 
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Have you ever just walked up to a squirrel? Most likely... never and if one did..something is wrong with it: plauge or injured.
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#28 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 02:54 PM
 
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Oh, come on - that's completely unfair. The OP never said anything that implied grandpa was trapping the squirrels for fun.=
I don't think its unfair. As I said it's because grandpa thinks hunting is more fun than warding them off. Thats just my point. He COULD have warded them off. If he didn't like hunting, and if he shared the OP's feelings on the matter, he would have taken another approach. But he didn't, and I don't think its unreasonable of me to say its probably because he likes hunting and doesn't see anything wrong with hurting animals - whether it be for sport/recreation or for purpose. If for purpose, it could have been handled differently. He sometimes kills animals for recreational purposes, and so thought nothing of it in that situation. I am not against hunting for food. He wasn't eating these squirrels though. Nor do I agree this is witnessing the food chain in action. And all in all, the guy, from what I gather from the OP, thinks the boys should be able to hunt, and knows the OP doesn't want them too, and in knowing that trapped and killed an animal in their presence. It was out of line, and it was very much IMO him wanting those kids to experience "hunting", which is something he enjoys. The great thing about this being my opinion, is that you don't have to agree with me.
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#29 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 02:56 PM
 
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So sparing a ground squirrel's life doesn't guarantee it will live a lot longer.
So how do you feel about people who have cancer but are still enjoying the days they have left? should we not "spare" their life, since there is no guarantee they will live much longer anyway? Sorry, but the reasoning you outline here is not very convincing.
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#30 of 126 Old 07-08-2009, 02:58 PM
 
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Lot's of school in Princeton College Campus... never gave anyone a bit of trouble... my friend used to have nightmares about evil squirrels though lol but I have never had a problem with them myself. We used to do our homework on campus there and they never bothered us or disturbed anything. There were a ton of them too.
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