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Upstate fire department's squirrel-killing contest draws complaints

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— A weekend squirrel-shooting contest in upstate New York is a sell-out, with all 1,000 tickets spoken for, organizers said, despite a push by animal rights groups and others to cancel the event.

The 7th annual “Hazzard County Squirrel Slam” will raise money for the volunteer Holley Fire Department, the event sponsor.

Prizes ranging from $50 to $200 will be given out Saturday for the largest squirrel shot and the heaviest group of five squirrels. Five rifles and shotguns are to be raffled off, according to a flier on the western New York fire department’s website.

Critics have sought to stop the event through online petitions and protests, calling the event cruel and a bad example for children. The contest targeting red and gray squirrels is open to anyone over age 12 with a hunting license.

“Declaring someone a winner for killing the most animals influences children and the wider community to believe that wildlife is unimportant and killing for a monetary prize is meritorious,” Brian Shapiro, New York state director of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote in a letter to Holley Fire Chief Pete Hendrickson.

Supporters say hunting is just part of life upstate, including in the largely rural village of 1,800 people on the Erie Canal.

“This is a community of hunters and they’re going to hunt anyways. Why not hold a fundraiser that will reach our community,” the event’s chairwoman, Tina Reed, told the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester. She said the event has grown each year: This year, 1,000 tickets were made available after it sold out of 200 tickets last year.

Participants must abide by New York’s hunting regulations, hunting only where it is permitted and killing no more than six squirrels in a single day. Shooting will be followed by a weigh-in, then a dinner.

State Sen. Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat, called the contest insane during an Albany news conference with the group Friends of Animals earlier this week. The group planned to protest outside the Holley Fire House on Saturday afternoon.

Avella’s upstate colleague, Sen. George Maziarz, a Democrat who represents Holley, defended the fundraiser, saying hunting, fishing and shooting sports are part of the region’s lifestyle.

“It’s like a fishing derby but it’s squirrels, not fish,” Maziarz spokesman Adam Tabelski said Friday.

Neither the fire department nor members of its board of directors returned telephone and email messages from The Associated Press.



February 15, 2013
9:04 p.m.

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Will squirrel be on the dinner menu?
Judging from the local (Glenville) population, there is no shortage of squirrels. Our local coyotes stalk them.

February 16, 2013
8:12 a.m.

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Get one interested in occupying your attic, crawl space or cathedral ceiling insulation and you will happily hire these guys to Wipe Them Out!

February 16, 2013
9:09 a.m.

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Sen. Avella's comments are another reason why we should cut our ties to NYC and remove it as part of OUR state!

February 16, 2013
12:50 p.m.

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Squirrels are better looking then Rats in NYC, but as justapo states if they become a fellow "occupant" of your house they are no more welcome then a Rat. I'm sure if Sen. Avella had either of them in his house he would be more then happy to have them exterminated. I've had squirrels in my attic and you definitely look at them differently afterwards.

February 16, 2013
2:01 p.m.

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Ahimsa Ahimsa Ahimsa

February 16, 2013
4:30 p.m.

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Hey Tony Avella (thinks squirrel hunting is insane in Queens) -- My dog claims he's assaulted with pine cones every time he's out in the yard under the Norway Spruce trees by a brigade of squirrels. You'll get no sympathy from him. I always liked squirrels... they are great for target practice. Remember Gov. Cuomo said: "How many bullets do you need to kill a deer? Nobody needs more than 7 bullets in a magazine." Andy obviously never went squirrel hunting! Get yer Ruger 10/22 with a 25 round magazine & let the fun begin! (lol) They're rodents. Cute but rodents. If you ever had one in your house (climbing down the chimney & in through the fireplace), you'll know just what I mean. My wife called it creative decorating. We needed new curtains and drapes anyway. Mr. Avella, you have no idea how many squirrels we got up here. It's no problem. Try the soup, it tastes like chicken!