Squirrel Slam fundraiser called off the mark
By Casey Seiler
ALBANY — The squirrels of Western New York have a friend in the state Legislature, but he comes from Queens. State Sen. Tony Avella, a Democrat, was joined by animal advocates at the Capitol on Monday to denounce the Hazzard County Squirrel Slam, a hunting event set to be held Saturday in the town of Holley, located on the eastern side of Orleans County north of Rochester.
“It’s bad on so many levels,” said Avella, who criticized the decision to include preteen hunters in the event. ” … A poor little squirrel getting a nut and probably coming up to the individual to try and be friendly — and then the kid pulls out a gun and shoots it.”
A benefit for the local fire department, this is the seventh annual Slam — named in honor of the TV classic “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
According to the department’s website, the goal is for two-person teams to bag the five heaviest squirrels — “reds and grays only” — for cash awards ranging from $50 to $200. (The rules prohibit “internal packing or soaking of squirrels for added weight.”)
Guns are also among the day’s prizes, including an AR-22 semiautomatic rifle — although “substitutions on guns may be necessary due to federal/state gun law changes,” the website notes.
Opponents of the hunt have been collecting tens of thousands of signatures on petitions, and have already raised several thousand dollars to donate to the fire department if it cancels the event. So far, it has refused to do so.
Avella, D-Queens, said that while he has been supportive of the sport of hunting in many cases, the squirrel shoot goes “too far” — especially the involvement of children in a new 14-and-younger category. He was backed up by Peter Muller of the League of Humane Voters of New York and Edita Birnkrant, the state director of Friends of Animals.
“I understand that hunting is an important thing for upstate New York and is part of the culture,” Avella said, “but this goes way beyond that — it’s just insane.”
Organizers of the event could not be reached for comment.
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