Some mammalogy students kill for keeps

Commerson's Roundleaf Bat skull (Hipposideros ...
 (Photo credit: Hilary Andrews)

The mammalogy lab — BZ 330 — has been a prized possession of CSU’s wildlife and biology students for years, but certain complaints have lead to misinterpretations of the course.

On paper, the course’s general goal is to study the evolution, classification and biology of mammals while also practicing identification and preparation of museum specimens.

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While the class may be specific with its rules in the class handouts, miscommunication between students and the instructor of the course, Professor Gregory Florant, has led some students to believe the museum specimen project is inhumane.

“You had to stuff a mammal and they didn’t give it to you, they didn’t tell you how to get it,” said Viktor Antolin, senior zoology major. “They recommended that you just find roadkill, but you had to have the skull intact, so roadkill didn’t really work — what I had to do was go out and somehow catch and kill an animal and bring it in and stuff it.”

“It’s not actually a mandatory exercise,” Florant said. “I would say 95 percent of the students all do it because they want to see the inside of an animal — they want to see the skeleton.”

Florant also explained that neither him or his TAs for the course condoned any sort of illegal procuring of their museum specimen. Yet, while the course was open last semester, this was a message students did not receive.

“I caught a squirrel in my backyard — I drowned it,” Antolin said. “I had a live-game trap and I caught it in that. Then I put the live-game trap in a garbage bag and put my hose in the bag.”

Antolin’s method might have been inhumane, but according to him, there was a serious lack of structure for the assignment.

“They didn’t really give you any way to do it,” Antolin said.

On the other hand, some students who had taken the class in previous years felt like the course was perfectly fine.

“It was a great class,” said Sam Peterson, junior wildlife major. “The lab was probably my favorite lab that I’ve had since I’ve been here at CSU.”

Although Peterson took the course last year with a different instructor — Professor Florant was on sabbatical — the class was designed in the same way that it has been for years.

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“Armstrong taught it last year,” Florant said. “I told him what all of our situations and rules and everything were and he had access to all of it — it’s all printed up.”

Confusion over how to obtain the museum specimen and whether or not it’s mandatory to do so is an ongoing issue.

“They said just use your wits,” Peterson said. “I don’t think they ever really encouraged going out and specifically killing your animal — it’s just something that some kids did.”

The miscommunication between BZ 330 students and Professor Florant has lead to questionable actions, but Florant is holding his ground on the matter.

“I would not condone and I do not support and I don’t encourage students to get a varmint permit and go out and shoot the varmint,” Florant said. “There’s no reason for you to do that, but some students — wildlife students and some other students — they really want something specific, you know, something very spectacular and if they have the legal means to be able to get it, I can’t keep them from bringing it in.”

Collegian Reporter Rick Cookson can be reached at news@collegian.com