Saturday, January 07, 2006

Shooting Squirrels

This column was first published 12-8-05

Red squirrels are a pain and I shoot them whenever possible. Squirrels on my property or the properties I take care of here in Lovell are subject to the death penalty because those little red buggers cause a lot of damage. (Besides teaching and writing, I’ve been a caretaker for twenty years.) A pellet gun with a scope is my method of execution and if they’re in range, I don’t often miss. Sometimes they’re dispatched with one shot, but usually they need two or three shots before they stop twitching. I leave the little corpses where they fall and some other animal eats them up. By morning of the next day, not a trace is left. I shoot gray squirrels too, but not as often. They don’t come around much anymore. Maybe they noticed their cousins’ cadavers and decided to look for other habitat. I have no mercy on porcupines either. Rules of engagement for them? Shoot on sight with a .22.

It’s amazing that so many people put up with nuisance animals: deer eating their gardens, beavers flooding their homes, or coyotes eating their cats and terrorizing their children’s school yards. Yes, we live in an ultraliberal part of the country where guns and traps are considered evil and humans are less noble than animals, but don’t they know that coyotes chase down deer and disembowel them on the run? What would they propose to do with those marauding predators? Capture them and send them to sensitivity training?

People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, is enraged that birds are slaughtered to prevent the spread of bird flu. What do they think should be done? Let it continue until all birds are infected and the virus spreads to humans? A friend emailed me with helpful information about bird flu symptoms. Watch out if you have high fever; nausea; stomach cramps; diarrhea and an overpowering urge to defecate on statues or windshields. So far, I’m symptom free.

Speaking of birds, you PETA activists who want to ban fish hooks because they’re painful to bass and trout, what about bald eagles and ospreys grabbing fish with sharp talons, then carrying them to nests to be ripped apart alive with those sharp hooked beaks? Should sensitivity training be mandated for them too?

Perhaps you read about the bird murder in Holland. People were setting up dominoes in a large hall attempting to break the Guinness world record when a common sparrow flew in and knocked over 23,000 of them. Someone chased down the bird, shot it, and got arrested. Apparently “Common Sparrow” is a misnomer. That little bird was on the Netherlands Endangered Species List.

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson hit a dove with his fast ball back in 2001, according to ESPN’s web site. “It exploded, feathers and everything, just ‘poof!’” said the batter. “There were nothing but feathers laying on home plate. I never saw the ball, nothing but feathers.” Luckily for Johnson, that dove was not endangered as a species, but only from flying too close to his pitch. Dave Winfield wasn’t so lucky, however, when he threw a ball and hit a protected seagull. The gull died and Winfield was arrested after the game for animal cruelty. Yankee manager Billy Martin summed it up thusly: “They say he hit the gull on purpose. They wouldn't say that if they’d seen the throws he’d been making all year. It’s the first time he’s hit the cutoff man.”

According to seagull research by Wisconsin blogger Gavin C. Schmitt, “Seagulls fall under the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This law, a treaty between the United States and Canada (and later Russia, Mexico and Japan), makes it illegal to kill, sell, or capture certain birds mentioned on a list by the Act. Even dead birds and bird parts such as eggs and feathers, are protected.”

So, the federal government is obligated to protect seagulls even if they’re dead? It’s a struggle to make sense of this, especially when I read stories like the one last month in Lewiston’s Sun Journal: “Feds killing gulls to fight germs in lake.” Forty gulls had been shot and more had been sentenced to death. Why this departure from federal treaty obligations you may wonder? “The birds are suspected of defecating in the water,” suggests staff writer Doug Fletcher. Hmm. Where else did these crack federal agents suspect that seagulls would defecate besides on the occasional windsheld? Has it occurred to them that fish are probably defecating in there too?

After shooting the gulls, will federal agents guard their corpses? For how long? After the flesh rots away, will they remain on duty over the feathers? If so, maybe they’ll be too busy to bother me about shooting squirrels and porcupines.


tomax7 said...

Tom, there has to be a balance somewhere in all this.

Protecting the birds was a smart move, else you'd be writing about the historical value of them rather than they being a pest.

But agreed, PETA is extreem. In their tufo-fed, lily pad world, there is a bit of truth. If we kept going like in the industrial dirty 60-70's, a lot of species would be gone now due to greed, stupidity and pollution.

So yes a balance is needed. We have to have laws, and we have to have people looking out for animals who don't know how to.

Remember fur traders? That made the west besides gold. How cruel is it to trap? Well, how else does one catch these animals. But on the other side, what a cruel method to die by.

I think the Bible speaks about how a man treats his cattle Proverbs 12:10, so likewise, how we handle God's creations has bearing on how we as a society progress.

The problem is when we put them above human rights.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood the hatred that some people have for squirrels or other furry little animals. They harm no one and are delightful to watch. No I don't like coyotes and yes I wouldn't have minded bagging a an elephant in Africa circa 1900 and I do target shoot but I do not hunt. Why is that some of us take such delight killing something so innocent and fun living as a squirrel.
Dan Cox

Anonymous said...

Tom, I aint sure about the red squirrel, but them greys is good roasted over a open fire..Never heard tho, of coyotes gutting running deer..Out here in the SW, they probably cant catch them due to wide open spaces..
On the comment from Dan Cox, "something so innocent and fun living as a squirrel" hahaha
Great article..

Anonymous said...

Sqirrels are damaging my home, so I will kill them Live trapping and moving them elsewhere in the suburban environment is not a responsible act - it just takes my problem and makes it someone else's problem.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I'm getting rusty. Today, I missed a red squirrel with two shots. Gotta sight in my scope I guess. Must have jostled it in the club-cab behind me.

Anonymous said...

The greys are very destructive. I came home from a 5 week vacation. When I pulled into the driveway, a gray squeril ran up the side of an externan brick chimney. He ran on the roof to a small slit in the siding and into the soffit of a dormer.
After climing up to the dormer and pulling the soffit apart, there was a nest with three babies, The squerril had chewed all the fancy wood scroll work that was hidden by the siding.

They love peanut butter that I put in the have-a-heart trap. I bring them into the city so the peta liberals can enjoy them! PETA, People Eating Tasty Animals.