Last weekend's Squirrel Hunt in Western New York caused quite a stir. It made national headlines and drew protestors from as far away as New York City.
Holley - population 18-hundred - is normally a relatively quite, rural community near the Erie Canal, some 20 miles outside Rochester. Things got a little heated last weekend in Holley when protesting animal advocates came face-to-face with squirrel hunters. One man was arrested for allegedly harassing protestors during the 7th annual The "Hazzard County Squirrel Slam" - a fundraiser for the Holley Fire Department. This year, 1,000 tickets were made available at $10 each after it sold out of 200 tickets last year. Prizes ranged from $50 to $200 for the largest squirrel shot and the heaviest group of five squirrels. Under law, children as young as 12 are allowed to participate: New York State's Squirrel hunting season runs from September through February.
The hunt has been held every February without incident, until word of it spread on social media and then found its way into newspapers, radio and television. Edita Birnkrant is New York Director of Friends of Animals. She traveled from New York City to protest the hunt. Some observers accused the animal rights activists of being rowdy: Birnkrant admits she carried a small megaphone during the protest.
Senator George Maziarz, a Democrat who represents Holley, tells WAMC that hunting, fishing and shooting sports are part of the region’s lifestyle. Holley government, fire and police officials have had little to say about the hunt - a special line set up to deal with calls about it is perpetually busy. During the event Holley Police Chief William Murphy told reporters the FBI was investigating death threats against village and fire officials.
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