Top Sory Box

February 2014


Steve McQueen in Montana
The Famous Actor and His Beautiful Wife Loved Livingston
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Jeanette Rankin and Belle Winestine
In honor of the Centennial of Women's Suffrage in Montana
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McQueen, the Back Story
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An Apache Outbreak,War on the Border
Chiricahua Apaches Defy and Fight U.S. and Mexican Soldiers
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Food Police a Real Possibility?
For Some, It’s an Idea Whose Time Has Come
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The Real Wolf Does Not Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Authors Say It Is Pro-Wolfers Who Propagate Myths

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Letters to the Editor
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Confessions of a Professional Varmint Exterminator

When a Critter Has to Go—Who Ya’ Gonna’ Call?



Southwest Montana native Shane Halstead puts his decades of wilderness experience to practical dual use as a trapper and taxidermist. The trapping end of the equation, though, has led Halstead into unusual work.

“I’ve been incorporating problem animal removal into my business,” said Halstead, whose primary occupation is in the field of taxidermy. The 46-year-old Halstead told the  Pioneer that with nearly 30 years of trapping wild animals under his belt, he has gotten the knack for removing animals like beavers and skunks from peoples’ properties.

After getting out of the trapping business when the market price for furs plunged, Halstead got back in the game about eight years ago, and he had an idea for a different approach.
“I kept hearing about folks wanting to get rid of animals like skunks that were causing problems on their properties,“ said Halstead. “Because I’m a pretty good trapper, I didn’t see why I couldn’t start trapping and removing problem critters for other people. It’s a service generated by need…if people need that service, I’m one of those guys they can call to take care of the problem.” Halstead added that he hasn’t noticed too many other people pursuing problem animal removal as a business in Montana, and as far as he knows, he‘s the only one doing it in the southwest part of the state.

Halstead said along with the traditional approach of trapping and eliminating problem animals, he also offers relocation of the beasts to clients as well.

“I always tell the customer if you want to eliminate your problem, you’ve got to get rid of it,” he said. “But because in today’s world, some people just don’t agree with that, I can relocate the animals. I don’t like killing all the animals, but to relocate a skunk? Not many people want a skunk around their place.”

Halstead said he removed at least 20 skunks (at $35 per animal) for clients last year, but he added that beavers are the animals that garner the most business for him.
Aside from the obvious odorifer-ous negative effects associated with skunks, the animals can also transmit the rabies virus. Beavers will wreak havoc on both woodlands and waterways, building the dams necessary for them to transform sections of streams into the deep pools they require to build their lodges. Aside from the headaches these engineering adjustments to streambeds can cause farmers and ranchers, beaver dams can also affect the migration of trout traveling to spawning areas or trying to escape rising water temperatures during the hot summer months.

Halstead said he quite often does not charge clients for beaver remov-al, because if he can harvest the animals when their pelts are prime, he can sell those pelts. He said clients who request his services for beaver removal often let him harvest animals like muskrat, mink and bobcats on their property as well.

“I leave it up to the customer, mostly,” said Halstead. “If I have to drive 100 or more miles to remove a beaver, and bring my camper along, there may be some cost involved.” But Halstead said that for him, it’s the experience itself that offers the most reward.

“Basically, I like to be outdoors instead of indoors,” he said. “I’m more of an outdoorsman, rather than to stay inside a building. I love to trap, and the critters need to be controlled, and I can stay outside and not get into any more trouble than I already do, I guess, though I generally don’t get in much trouble. I do this work alone, and it keeps me busy. I’m professional and discreet with my approach, and respectful to all the animals on a customer’s property. And people are very grateful for getting the problem animals off their place.”

Aside from getting sprayed by a skunk a time or two (and an entertaining encounter with a game warden), things generally go pretty smoothly for Halstead on the job.

“It all depends on the situation,” he said. “[Problem] animals can be anywhere on a property…under a barn, house or porch, or even in an office space. Wherever there’s food, such as pet food, for instance…that’s where they go…and that’s somewhere they’re not supposed to be.”

Halstead’s approach in capturing an animal varies with the situation.

“Sometimes I have to use more bait, or smellier bait,” he said. “Sometimes no bait at all. I don’t want to trap a critter I am not after.”

Halstead shoots animals clients want killed, but employs tranquilizers when relocating an animal via a contraption he calls a dispatch pole.

“I’ll run into potential hazards on the job,” he said. “Getting sprayed by a skunk is the worst, but there are hazards involved with beaver removal, too. You sometimes have to take a chance in the water, or on the ice, to get to where they are. I just stay aware and do what I’ve got to do.” And the chase can get quite interesting.

“I’m after a badger right now,” Halstead said in late September. “He’s a small badger, but he’s a big problem. And he’s smart. I’ve never run into such a critter. I already caught the female, but I’ve been after him for three weeks now. He’s just keeping one step ahead of me. There’s been cows in the field he’s in, and they’ve been stepping on my traps, too. A thousand-pound animal can cause some damage to a trap. But the customer has moved the cows, and one of these days, that badger will make a mistake, and I’ll get him. I’ve just got to be persistent.”

Trapping of problem animals is still a sideline of sorts for Halstead, but his mainstay business remains in the realm of taxidermy. Halstead, who has been a taxidermist for 28 years, has won numerous awards on both the state and national level for his work in that field.

“I like to give people a quality job for a reasonable price,” he said of his taxidermist work. Halstead works with big game, fish, and birds.

“I am more about quality taxidermy than speedy taxidermy,” said Halstead. “A lot of guys don’t care how they portray their work, and I do kind of cringe when I see something like that.”

Whether a customer wants a skunk to bid them a permanent adieu, or this season’s big bull elk displayed with a handsome shoulder mount in his den, Shane Halstead can handle the job.  










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