Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Tale Of Two Towns

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

For squirrels, that is.

This is the story of two small towns. Although on opposite ends of this great country, these two rural communities have at least one thing in common: both have annual celebrations that involve squirrels. However, the celebrations are as different as night and day or, in this case, as different as life and death.

Longview, Washington Celebrates Squirrels

Longview, a town in southern Washington, on the Columbia River, loves its squirrels. Back in 1963, a local businessman, Amos Peters, watched a squirrel get run over by a car while crossing the street to visit the feeder that he and his coworkers had erected. Grief stricken, Mr. Peters designed and had built, at his own expense, a squirrel walkway, the Nutty Narrows Bridge, which to this day spans one of the busier streets in Longview.

In 2011 a group of local leaders decided to honor the late Mr. Peters' legacy with an annual squirrel celebration, the Longview Squirrel Fest. The festival features a parade, local and out-of-town craft and food vendors, family activities and contests, musical entertainment, and fireworks. All of this just to honor squirrels, and to raise funds for the construction of additional squirrel bridges, one to be built each year, to keep the fuzzy friends safe.

Holley, New York Celebrates Death

Holley, NY, an upstate community near the city of Rochester, definitely does not love its squirrels. Each February Holley residents' thoughts turn to this:

For no apparent reason, the town has, for the last six years, held an annual fund raising event sponsored by the local fire department, in which local residents--adults and children--compete to kill as many squirrels as possible. The seventh annual "Hazzard County Squirrel Slam" will offer cash prizes up to $200, in adult and youth categories, to those who kill the most and the largest squirrels on February 16. There is also a drawing to give away several guns, including an AR-15 assault rifle. Scores of squirrels will be killed, not for food, but simply for "entertainment." Many more will be injured, maimed, and left to die slowly and in pain.

It's hard to imagine what could be so different about these two towns, what could make one town seek to embrace, protect, and celebrate its squirrel population, while the other takes pleasure in causing pain, suffering, and death among its squirrels. On the surface they both seem like mainstream, working-class American towns the likes of which can be found throughout the United States. I suppose if we look deep enough we could uncover some demographic, economic, and social differences that would explain this vast gulf between the attitudes and outlooks of these communities.

I think I speak for a lot of Americans when I say that if I had to decide which of these communities to settle in, the decision to me would be clear: the town that embraces life or the one that embraces death;  compassion or suffering; comfort or pain; light or darkness.

Please help bring an end to the Hazzard County Squirrel Slam. There are currently three petitions that you can sign to make your voice heard against this event. You can sign them here, and here, and here. There is also a Facebook page where you can find more information on ways to protest this event and similar killing contests. You can also write to the Holley Fire Department, using the "contact us" link on the left side of the home page.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Holley Squirrel Slaughter Update

I just found out there is now a third petition asking the town of Holley, NY to cancel their scheduled mass squirrel execution. Although I did not start this petition, it does list as the primary source of information my original post about the squirrel massacre. As I said before, I have mixed feelings about multiple petitions for the same cause. I worry that the individual effect of each petition might be diluted by the duplication of efforts. On the other hand, I can see where the additional exposure could help, since this new petition is on the Care2 web site, while the first two were on Change.org.

Please, as before, sign this petition and most important spread the word to others!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

More on the Holley, NY Squirrel Slaughter

I just want to share an excellent essay on the upcoming Holley, NY bloodbath, from the blog Grey and Red, A Squirrel Journal.

If you haven't done so, please read my post preceding this one on this disturbing event, and follow the links to the petitions that I placed there. Please make your voice heard and let it be known that events like this one are cruel and unacceptable.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Holley, NY Planning Squirrel Bloodbath!

The town of Holley, New York is certainly no friend to squirrels. The fire department of this small upstate community is planning to hold their seventh annual "Hazzard County Squirrel Slam," a yearly celebration of death on February 16. The "Squirrel Slam" is organized for the mass killing of squirrels, with prizes given to the individuals who kill the most and the largest of the animals. What is even more disturbing is that the prizes will be given in "adult" and "youth" categories. That's right: children will be encouraged to take up guns and kill harmless squirrels for no reason other than "fun" and "entertainment," and given prizes based on their efficiency and skill at this pointless killing.

There is no telling how many squirrels will be arbitrarily killed at this event. And what's more, many others will be wounded and maimed, many of them left to crawl away to suffer and die slowly. Furthermore, with the even held in mid-February, some female squirrels may well have recently given birth, only to be killed and leave their young alone to starve to death.

Sounds like fun, right?

Here is the flyer for this year's blood rite:

Notice that in addition to the cash prizes, a drawing will be held to give away several guns, including--as an extra macabre touch--a .22 caliber AR-15, a version of the assault weapon used in the slaughter of school children in Connecticut last month and several other mass killings.

It's one thing to hunt an animal for food, as needed, and for many people in America and elsewhere this is a tradition that, as distasteful as I find it, I would not deprive them of. But to simply slaughter animals for no reason, in as large numbers as possible, and to celebrate this pointless slaughter as a community event with prizes... and then to encourage children to participate in the bloodbath, teaching them that pointless, arbitrary killing is fun... is beyond disturbing. The only word that comes close that I can think of is an abomination.

I am asking anyone who reads this to join me in raising our voices against this event:

1. There is a Facebook page dedicated to protesting and stopping the Squirrel Slam. Please "Like" the page to add your voice to those opposing the slaughter.

2. You can call the mayor of Holley, NY, John W. Kenney, Jr. at 585-638-6367, and/or email him at mayor@villageofholley.org. I am including the text of my letter to Mayor Kenney at the bottom of this post. You can paraphrase as you see fit, but whatever you do, please be respectful but clear about your disgust at this event.

3. There are at least two petitions asking the town to stop this event. Here is one. And here is the other. I have signed both, and I hope you will too. I considered starting my own petition, but I feel that too many separate petitions might dilute the message and reduce their effectiveness, as some people may just sign one.

4. Most important, please spread this information by whatever means you have--Facebook, Twitter, email, and word of mouth. This isn't just about squirrels, it's about all cases of killing and cruelty to animals for public entertainment.

Here is my letter to the mayor of Holley, NY:

To: Mayor John W. Kenney, Jr.

I was troubled last night to learn of the planned event to be held by your town's fire department, the "Hazzard County Squirrel Slam," an annual event at which squirrels will be killed in a contest with prizes given to those who kill the biggest squirrels.

Although I choose not to kill animals for any reason, I can understand hunting to obtain food. But to hold a local festival celebrating the mass slaughter of an animal for no other reason than "fun" or "entertainment" is pointless cruelty that I and countless other find horrific. And to then encourage children to take up guns and participate in this slaughter--teaching them that killing for no reason is fun--is just utterly disturbing.

Please do whatever is necessary to stop this event, and replace it with one that celebrates life instead of death.

Thank you,

Update: You can contact the Holley Fire Department through their web site at www.holleyfire.com. From the main page, click on the Contact Us link on the left. I suggest that comments be polite and respectful, and be addressed to Chief Pete Hendrickson.

Update: Some people have questioned whether the AR-15 was actually used in the Connecticut school shooting, or whether that rifle remained in the trunk of the shooter's car. I have been provided a link to a press release from the CT state police confirming that the AR-15 was in fact recovered inside the school. This is, of course, a side issue--the real issue is the cruelty that is about to be inflicted on the squirrels of Holley, NY. But I also know that people will seize on any detail that they can to discredit what they disagree with.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Squirrel Facts: The Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel

The golden-mantled ground squirrel is a small ground squirrel of western Canada and the United States. It is found in southeastern British Columbia and Alberta, southward to New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California. Its primary habitat is hardwood forests, meadows, and sagebrush areas of the mountainous regions of the great basin, usually from above 4500 feet up to the timberline.

This is certainly one of the cutest of the squirrels. The golden-mantled ground squirrel resembles a chipmunk, with the two white stripes bordered by black stripes running down its sides. It is also chipmunk-like in size, just slightly larger, measuring only around ten inches long and weighing 6-7 ounces. Unlike chipmunks, this squirrel does not have stripes on its face.

Like other ground squirrels, golden-mantled ground squirrels hibernate through the winter, usually from October to May. They dig burrows deep under a protective object, such as a large rock or a log, and the burrow may stretch up to 100 feet long. These squirrels are not very social. Females and males appear together only during mating in the spring, after which they go their separate ways and the females raise their young alone.

The diet of the golden-mantled ground squirrel is varied, and includes seeds, nuts, fruits, and insects. The main food that they enjoy is pinon nuts. They also eat large amounts of underground fungi, which they locate by smell and dig out. When a golden-mantled ground squirrel locates food, it will eat some on the spot, then use its cheek pouches to carry the rest to the den, where it will be stored to eat in the spring when it wakes from hibernation. During the winter, these squirrels will sometimes awaken briefly to eat some of the stored food, then go back to sleep.

During the 1950s, a golden-mantled ground squirrel named Squeak was featured in a nature documentary. The short film shows Squeak, who lived at Crater Lake National Park, being put through a series of experiments to demonstrate the squirrel's intelligence and inventiveness at solving problems to obtain food that is hidden or out of reach.

I would like to thank Delilah the Squirrel on Facebook for bringing my attention to the above video.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Squirrel Whisperer

Mary Krupa is a student at Penn State University. Last year, after seeing some other students feeding the campus squirrels, she decided to try feeding them herself, and struck up a friendship that has made her a celebrity at the university and on the internet.

Krupa is now known on campus as the "squirrel whisperer." Having formed a close bond with the school's squirrels, she not only feeds them, but pets many of them, and has even taken to dressing some of the more willing squirrels in little hats. One of these squirrels, Sneezy, has gained internet fame in his own right through his Facebook page.

Sneezy in his Penn State cap

As you can see in the video below, Miss Krupa has formed a genuine bond of trust and friendship with many of the squirrels at PSU. My first reaction to the photos that I saw of Sneezy was that placing the hats on him might be seen as demeaning, but after watching the video I am convinced that she cares deeply about the animals and that she is truly bringing happiness to the squirrels through her companionship with them, and to the campus community with the hats and her demonstration of compassion and friendship with the squirrels.

The video also includes a discussion of Asperger Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism that Miss Krupa has. People with Asperger Syndrome face challenges in many aspects of their lives, including the formation of social relationships. I can't help but think, however, that where this condition might make it more difficult to interact and socialize with people, it might actually help her relate to and bond with her squirrel friends.

More Than Just The Squirrel Whisperer from James Rohan on Vimeo.