Squirrel shoot fund-raiser in New York town goes on despite protests
The LA Times
By Tamara Jones
Friends of Animals state director Edita Birnkrant said she was unable to get through to the mayor or fire chief to make her matching-funds offer.
“The town clerk told me, ‘You don’t understand, every official in this village is 100% behind this event. Our values, our way of life, our culture, is about hunting.’
“I’m pretty sure if we had offered $100,000, they wouldn’t have canceled it.”
For the last six years, the volunteer fire department of rural Holley, N.Y., has raised money for new equipment by sponsoring a hunting contest to see who could shoot the fattest squirrel. Other than some concerns that cheaters might pack squirrels with rocks before weigh-in, the event has always gone off without a hitch.
This year, the squirrels have gone viral, and the social media campaign to stop Holley’s seventh annual “Squirrel Slam” on Saturday has turned into full-fledged cultural warfare between Americans who feed squirrels and Americans who serve them in pot pies with sherried mushrooms.
Passions are running so high that the FBI had to be called in to investigate death threats against “the whole village board, the police, the firefighters” and virtually every official in the one-square-mile village, according to Police Chief William Murphy, who noted that he neither hunts nor eats squirrels himself.
In the pro-squirrel camp are animal activists, wildlife rehabilitators, a state senator, gun opponents, a New Age minister in Texas who heals wounded squirrels through Reiki massage, and a small subculture of pet lovers eager to spread the word about the unique joys of “homesquirreling.”
Through Facebook postings, online petitions and up to 3,000 emails a day to Holley officials, the squirrel advocates have tried to persuade the fire department to cancel the slam, which offers cash prizes of up to $200 to two-person teams whose five-squirrel limit weighs the most. (“No internal packing or soaking of squirrels for added weight!!!” the rules state.)
Of particular ire to hunt opponents is a new category this year offering a special prize to participants under the age of 14.
In addition to cash awards for dead squirrels, the slam will raffle off rifles, including a semiautomatic .22-caliber assault-style gun similar to one Connecticut police found in the arsenal of the Sandy Hook school shooter — a fact that has further incensed the squirrel advocates.
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