Evidence Collection for Wildlife Control Cases
I have received many requests from individuals looking for help identifying scat, tracks, damage etc. caused by wildlife. While most are not related to pending lawsuits, accurate collection of information and data is critical to proper identification.
What follows is a list of tips to help you make your case in a manner that will allow it to be stand up to scrutiny.
This document will continue to be edited as new information comes to light. Contact the author for additional details.
Principles of Evidence Collection
Provide Specific Information
Nothing hinders my assistance more than vague terms. Don’t say, “The hole is small” because, while “small: may mean something specific to you, it means little to someone else. After all, small compared to what?
- Measure as carefully as you can. Try to measure down to the 1/16 of an inch or millimeter.
- Provide specific dates and times.
- Provide city and state. Detail the habitat in your area. Is it treed, grassy, asphalt, near water, etc.
Take Quality Photos
Photos must provide investigators with three key pieces of information.
- context. Photos should show the setting in which the problem or situation has occurred.
- details of the incident. Photos must contain sufficient clarity to show what the problem actually is. This means photos must be crisp, well lighted, and containing enough mega-pixels to allow enlargement.
- permanent record. Photos should contain date and time when taken. Back ups should be made and kept in an off-site location.
Elements of Quality Photos
Quality photos must be in focus with good lighting and contrast.
Close up photos must have standard sized objects in the image (ideally rulers 90 degree rulers) to show scale and to help investigators handle parallax.
Photos must be large enough to allow viewers to zoom in for a closer look. Ideally, images 3 mega-pixels or higher are sufficient. Don’t get hung up on mega-pixels. The quality of the photo comes first. A poor photo that is 10 megapixels won’t beat a tack sharp photo at 3 mega-pixels.
Learn how to use your camera before you need it. Remember, digital cameras are set on the lowest setting from the factory. To obtain the largest sized picture, you will likely have to manually change the settings. Don’t assume the camera takes the largest photos automatically.
Stephen M. Vantassel is a Certified Wildlife Control Professional. He was a staff writer for Wildlife Control Technology magazine and helps the public and businesses resolve wildlife damage complaints.