05/05/04 — Don't shoot that squirrel

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Don't shoot that squirrel

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 5, 2004 2:10 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- People are calling Town Hall upset about squirrels.

Some say they're going to shoot them, but Town Manager Ray McDonald says don't do that.

The town of Mount Olive has an ordinance against firing guns. Besides, he says, he wants a chance to take care of them.

The last call he responded to concerned an electrocuted squirrel that had chewed down to a power wire and shorted it out. They love aluminum, McDonald said, and they chew down to it and die. "They're becoming dangerous," he said.

McDonald told the town board Monday night that about 10 people had called him about being over-run by the squirrels. They're digging up people's bulbs as fast as they can put them in the ground. He said he wants to see if the town can capture the squirrels in traps and take them out of town before anybody takes drastic action.

The town might want to ask the power company if there's another way to coat the power lines than using aluminum, he said. Most leader wires are aluminum, and he has heard the squirrels will chew all the way through the aluminum.

"You ought to see the wires," he said. "They chew every bit of the insulation off."

It's going to be hard for the town to tell people to take care of their squirrel problems themselves, he said. "If the dogs are our problem, and the birds are our problem, then the squirrels are our problem," he said. "The first time a kid is shot with a pellet gun, it's going to come back on the town. I feel it's our responsibility, and we ought to do what we can to eliminate the problem."

The board voted to empower McDonald to take care of the problem by whatever means he could besides shooting them.

"You'll have to buy a whole lot of pecans," said Mayor Ruff Huggins. He has trapped about 60 of the critters over the past few years. He told McDonald to be prepared to transport them quick before they hurt themselves.

Anybody who lives in Mount Olive has squirrels, said the mayor after the meeting. They're not a problem until they become overpopulated, he said.

The mayor is a nature lover and has feeders in his yard for birds and rabbits. The squirrels come and share the same food. He gets along with them fine until they start fighting over the food.

"Then, they're too thick," he said. "Somebody has to go."

He puts out the trap and baits it with shelled pecans. "Sometimes I catch birds, but most times I catch squirrels."

You have to watch the trap closely, he said, because the squirrel becomes frantic to get out of the cage, bruising its nose and breaking off its teeth by biting at the wire.

He covers the cage with canvass, and the squirrel calms immediately.

He has carried squirrels to Thunder Swamp and Goshen Swamp, places that have plenty of food where he knows they will survive without much problem. "They find a tree right quick," he said, "and they're right at home."