“Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself.”
(James Anthony Froude)
They walk amongst us. The misguided, the anthropocentric, the insufferably insecure and therefore immeasurably cruel. But while one of the last places one would expect to find them is in a firehouse, it has come to light that just such evil lurks inside the fire hall in Holley, New York; a tiny village located west of Rochester, not far from the cold winds and waters of Lake Ontario whose apparent pasttime during these long winter months is inbreeding.
On February 16th, these so-called lifesavers are holding a fundraiser in which the goal is to head out into the winter woods and blast as many squirrels as possible out of existence. Ticket purchasers may enter as many as five squirrels for the weigh-in at the end of the day and there are prizes for the most weight murdered, as well as other drawings, including raffling off some pretty nice guns. Not only is this slaughter needless and senseless, all of it disturbingly includes and encourages participation by children.
An enormous outcry is now taking shape. There is a page on Facebook against it and a petition at change.org. The following is my own letter to the mayor of Holley, a copy of which is also going to both the governor and head of wildlife of the state of New York.
Mayor John W. Kenney Jr.
Village of Holley
72 Public Sq
Holley, NY 14470
Dear Mayor Kenney,
I write you today as a concerned citizen. Not of Holley, New York but simply of the United States, a country that currently finds itself in the midst of an extremely divisive political climate in which our very foundation finds itself under attack.
It is no secret that I am a Constitutional conservative and support the 2nd Amendment as it is intended. But this also means I am pro-life. That means ALL life and when I was notified that your local fire department hosts a fundraiser that sends children out with guns to slaughter squirrels, well, frankly, I couldn’t quite get my head around how that puts any “fun” in “fundraiser”. As a state-permitted wildlife rehabilitator who specializes in tree squirrels, while my job is saving the lives of orphaned, abandoned and injured wildlife, I also understand the need for and the role of wildlife management and have reconciled with hunting both for that purpose and for sustenance when these activities are performed cleanly and humanely. As both a wildlife rehabilitator and president of our state wildlife rehabilitation organization I work closely with my own state’s Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division, as well with as our Natural Resources Commission so therefore I am familiar with the delicateness often required to balance conflicting interests. In my inner circle I count a former California Fish & Wildlife USDA large predator nuisance control expert, as well as a former City of Detroit firefighter now working down in North Carolina.
It is from this perspective that I must state this fire department fundraiser is simply wrong – on multiple levels.
First of all, your own state laws clearly state that “Minors under the age of 12 may not obtain a hunting license or hunt wildlife.” Yet the Holley Fire Department is including a “14 years and under” category. While your state laws do provide for children ages 12-15 to hunt (only) small game, there are multiple requirements:
•Youth must have completed a course in Hunter Education.
•Youth must have a Junior Hunting license.
•12-13 year old youth must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or a person who is 21 years or older and is designated in writing on the Mentored Youth Hunter and Trapper Permission Form (PDF) (24 KB). Adult mentor must have a license to hunt small game.
•14-15 year old youth must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or a person who is 18 years or older and is designated in writing on the Mentored Youth Hunter and Trapper Permission Form (PDF) (24 KB). Adult mentor must have a license to hunt small game.
Exactly how are these requirements being met for the fundraiser? A mere disclaimer on the website saying “All NYS hunting and licensing rules are to be followed” means nothing without enforcement. How are you to determine if the so-called “winner” is a legal winner? Frankly, you can’t.
Second, the current political foray attempting to curb our Second Amendment right has been spurred on by so-called mass murders committed by what are essentially children. Please take a good look at this sad list:
- Eric Harris (17), first on Zoloft then Luvox, and Dylan Klebold (18) killed 12 students and 1 teacher, and wounded 23 others, before killing themselves during the Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado. (Klebold’s medical records have never been made available to the public.)
- Jeff Weise (16) had been prescribed 60 mg/day of Prozac (three times the average starting dose for adults) when he shot his grandfather, his grandfather’s girlfriend and many fellow students at Red Lake, Minnesota. He then shot himself. Ten dead, 12 wounded.
- Cory Baadsgaard (16) Wahluke High School, Washington, was on Paxil (which caused him to have hallucinations) when he took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates hostage. He has no memory of the event.
- Chris Fetters (13) killed his favorite aunt while taking Prozac.
- Christopher Pittman (12) murdered both his grandparents while taking Zoloft.
Mathew Miller (13) hung himself in his bedroom closet after taking Zoloft for 6 days.
- Kip Kinkel (15), on Prozac and Ritalin, shot his parents while they slept then went to school and opened fire killing 2 classmates and injuring 22 shortly after beginning Prozac treatment.
- Luke Woodham (16), on Prozac, killed his mother and then killed two students, wounding six others.
- A boy in Pocatello, Idaho had a Zoloft-induced seizure in 1998 that caused an armed standoff at his school.
- Michael Carneal (14), on Ritalin, opened fire on students at a high school prayer meeting in West Paducah, Kentucky. Three teenagers were killed, 5 others were wounded.
- A young man in Huntsville, Alabama went psychotic while on Ritalin, chopping up his parents with an ax and also killing one sibling and almost murdering another.
- Andrew Golden (11), and Mitchell Johnson (14), both on Ritalin, shot 15 people, killing 4 students, 1 teacher, and wounding 10 others.
- TJ Solomon, (15), a high school student in Conyers, Georgia on Ritalin, opened fire on and wounded 6 of his class mates.
- Rod Mathews (14) beat a classmate to death with a bat while on Ritalin.
- James Wilson (19), from Breenwood, South Carolina, on various psychiatric drugs, took a .22 caliber revolver into an elementary school killing 2 young girls, and wounding 7 other children and 2 teachers.
- Elizabeth Bush (13) was responsible for a school shooting in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 2001 while on Paxil.
- Jason Hoffman (18), taking Effexor and Celexa, was responsible for a school shooting in 2001 that injured 5 people in El Cajon, California.
- Jarred Viktor (15), after five days on Paxil he stabbed his grandmother 61 times.
Chris Shanahan (15) while on Paxil, walked up and shot a woman in the back of the head with his rifle during a robbery attempt in Rigby, Idaho, killing her.
- Jeff Franklin (17), taking Prozac, Ritalin and Klonopin, killed his parents in Huntsville, Alabama in 1998 as they came home from work using a sledge hammer, hatchet, butcher knife and mechanic’s file; he then attacked his 6-year old and 9-year old brothers and 12-year old sister and left them to bleed to death.
- Kevin Rider (14), was withdrawing from Prozac when he died from a gunshot wound to his head. Initially it was ruled a suicide, but two years later, the investigation into his death was opened as a possible homicide. The prime suspect, also age 14, had been taking Zoloft and other SSRI antidepressants.
- Alex Kim (13) hung himself shortly after his Lexapro prescription had been doubled.
- Billy Willkomm, an accomplished wrestler and a University of Florida student, was prescribed Prozac at the age of 17. His family found him dead of suicide – hanging from a tall ladder at the family’s Gulf Shore Boulevard home in July 2002.
- Kara Jaye Anne Fuller-Otter (12) was on Paxil when she hung herself from a hook in her closet. Kara’s parents said “…. the damn doctor wouldn’t take her off it and I asked him to when we went in on the second visit. I told him I thought she was having some sort of reaction to Paxil….”
- Gareth Christian, Vancouver (18) was on Paxil when he committed suicide in 2002. His father could not accept his son’s death and later killed himself.
- Julie Woodward (17) was on Zoloft when she hung herself in her family’s detached garage.
- Matthew Miller was 13 when he saw a psychiatrist because he was having difficulty at school. The psychiatrist gave him samples of Zoloft. Seven days later his mother found him dead, hanging by a belt from a laundry hook in his closet.
- Kurt Danysh (18) killed his father with a shotgun while on Prozac. He is now behind prison bars, and writes letters, trying to warn the world that SSRI drugs can kill.
- Hammad Memon (15) shot and killed another student at Discovery Middle School in Huntsville, Alabama in 2010. He had been diagnosed with ADHD and depression and was taking Zoloft and “other drugs for the conditions.”
- Matti Saari, a 22-year-old culinary student, shot and killed 9 students and a teacher, and wounded another student in 2008 before killing himself. Saari was taking an SSRI and a benzodiazapine.
- Steven Kazmierczak (27) shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. According to his girlfriend, he had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax and Ambien. Toxicology results showed that he still had trace amounts of Xanax in his system.
- Finnish gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen (18) had been taking antidepressants before he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at Jokela High School – then he committed suicide.
- Asa Coon from Cleveland (14) shot and wounded four before taking his own life. Court records show Coon was on Trazodone.
- Jon Romano (16) on medication for depression, fired a shotgun in Columbia High School, East Greenbush, New York in 2004, wounding a teacher.
- Adam Peter Lanza (20), killed 26 and wounded 2 in Newtown Connecticut; allegedly autisitic, no records of medication have yet been released.
This is horrible, incomplete yet still much too long. Now ask yourself this: exactly how many of the children being taken out to indiscriminately slaughter another sentient creature simply for the sake of so-called “sport” in the guise of a fundraiser are taking some kind of psychotropic drug (or drugs)? Truth is you have no way to know this due to medical privacy laws. Then ask yourself how many of them are allowed to spend a large part of their time playing violent video games, too? Again, you can have no idea. The only honest answer is that another Sandy Hook incident is merely a matter of when, not if – and it is being actively encouraged by your fire department’s fundraiser.
Last but certainly not least, there are those oft-inconvenient moral implications. Whether you believe in God, Buddha, Mohammed, plain old garden-variety karma or the Great Pumpkin, premeditated, deliberate cruelty is never condoned. If we are to be truly considered “enlightened” as a species, it behooves us to teach our children by our words and most importantly by our deeds that life is sacred and is never to be taken without very good reason. Certainly those first responders in the Holley or any other fire department believe this and they walk the talk every time the alarm sounds. How many photos have been circulated about a brave, kind firefighter carrying someone’s beloved animal out of a burning building? Such is the “picture worth a thousand words” of selfless compassion and mercy. Why then – and how then – can those who willingly risk their lives to save lives even consider, let alone condone, plan and actively encourage the needless, senseless taking of lives that is your so-called “Squirrel Slam”?
For those of us most familiar with those furry denizens of the trees, it is not merely a matter of the taking of a few squirrel lives that causes our disgust and outcry but the exponential amount of suffering that inevitably follows. Of all the mammals, the squirrel is an amazing survivor and, notwithstanding countless bad shots that send a wounded squirrel off to suffer and eventually die a slow, painful death from infection, every single nursing mother coldly blasted into the fur-filled hereafter leaves behind babies who will, unlike their helpless human infant counterparts, do whatever they can to find her. If they do not succumb to the cold and exhaustion from calling for their mother, even naked, blind and deaf neonates will make their way out of their nest in order to seek out their life-giver. Inevitably they fall and the lucky ones end up in hands like mine that become their foster mother and provide them with a second chance to live as Nature intended. The unlucky are killed by predators but the most unlucky of all die an excruciating death from exposure – starvation, dehydration and hypothermia – with each second of their final moments filled with fear.
If you would not throw your own child down a well in the middle of winter and walk away to let them die a slow, painful death; if you would not throw your cat or dog down a well in the middle of winter and walk away to let them die a slow, painful death, then why in the world would you set out to cause essentially the same horror to any other living creature?
If your answer is you simply did not know or understand, you may be forgiven. But with knowledge comes responsibility, so I am asking that you please shut down this fundraiser. There are many other ways in which to raise money; there are a myriad of things to do to raise money that will also teach children a proper respect for life and the responsible use of firearms.