2017-09-13 / Opinion

Waiting for the store to empty before shooting a squirrel

Guest Columnist

While shopping at a south Main Street store – part of a large chain - in Sanford, Maine recently, I noticed employees concentrating on some type of activity taking their attention. When I asked what was going on, the store employee said, “We are waiting for all the customers to leave so that we can shoot a squirrel that is trapped in the store.”

I immediately confronted the employee and told him that using a gun is not the answer, but catching the squirrel in a humane trap and releasing it is the best way to handle the problem. I left the store for home where upon I called the corporate head office and told them about what an employee with a gun was thinking of doing and for them to immediately put a stop to it. I never heard back from the company.

I was shocked that there are still people who believe that the answer to an animal trapped in a store is to use lethal methods. If you catch a squirrel in a humane trap then all is well. If you shoot an innocent animal that was just curious and got into the store through a freight door, that at the time I was there was closed, you will have all kinds of problems.

Shooting a gun, even a pellet gun, in the city limits is illegal and then there are animal cruelty laws, thus you will have problems with the police. Bringing a gun to a place of work will likely get you fired. Then there is all the bad publicity and loss of customers.

Now in my 70’s, I look back at my life and find that many of times when I have been the happiest there was always and animal around including squirrels.

My wife and I have saved many critters over the decades battling many different very large companies whose names you would recognize in many different states. We have been very successful. One such example was a very large grocery store chain in the Pacific Northwest.

The store put up nets - material similar to screen doors - under ceilings of awnings outside of building entrances and walls, to keep birds from perching under them and dropping waste onto customers. These nets have holes in them especially along the sides and corners. Birds find their way in but become disoriented and cannot find their way out thus are trapped between the net and the awning ceilings. The birds then would panic and eventually end up dead on the nets unable to escape.

My wife and I told store management about the problem and they didn’t care, so we went to the corporate head office and they didn’t care either. So we took the problem to the local newspaper and they wrote a story about what was happening at the grocery store. The day the story came out in the newspaper, my wife and I drove up to the store and parked in the parking lot and watched about ten employees with ladders tearing down hundreds of feet of netting.

For weeks thereafter there were letters to the editor in that newspaper praising what we did and admonishing the store. Some people said they would never shop there again and others commended on how their days were brightened in the mornings when they would go to that store for coffee and listen to all the birds chirping and playing. The dead birds were a public relations disaster for the store.

At Lake Tahoe a store owner put poison in pigeon food on the roof of his store. His employees turned him in to the authorities. Employees can be of great help in exposing uncaring shop owners.

Humane traps come in many different sizes. Go on the computer and look up Havahart humane traps. One can also borrow humane traps from many veterinarians or your local animal control officer. Most hardware stores carry them. I have used them and they work very well. If you are afraid to release an animal after it is caught, just ask your local animal control officer to do it for you.

Install a one-way small door, similar to two-way pet doors people have at home for, say a cat, but this door only allows the animal to leave. Put some food and water by the one-way door to attract the animal to the door.

My wife and I have contacted the Mayor of Sanford, Tom Cote, and requested that the city consider a new ordinance requiring humane traps, in special cases an animal control officer will be available to solve the situation. He has responded and asked if we would speak at the next public safety subcommittee meeting to consider such a law.

I encourage everyone reading this letter to contact your local city and county officials to do the same. The goal is to make all of York County a place that is kind and caring to all its critters. Hopefully this can spread to the state and nation.

Dr. Thor Nielsen is an International Economist and resides in York County.

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