(13-WHAM, Sean Carroll) Protesters visited Holley Village Hall on Friday in a last ditch effort to convince local leaders to put an end to the now controversial squirrel hunting fundraiser. The “7th Annual Hazzard County Squirrel Slam” has been targeted by activists in recent weeks that have flooded local leaders with e-mails, phone calls, and letters.
"People were just outraged and in disbelief that a fire department could have such a disgusting scheme as a fundraiser that draws in children and rewards them for killing,” Edita Birnkrant the New York Director of Friends of Animals said.
The event abides by all New York State hunting rules and regulations; that includes children as young as 12 with a valid junior hunting license. Participants enter up to five squirrels for weighing at the end of the day on Saturday and prizes are given out based on that weight. Prizes include some guns, which is another source of controversy for some.
"There's no place in a civilized society anymore to have these kinds of contests anymore and it makes it especially disgusting that they're drawing children in,” Birnkrant said.
In fact, Friends for Animals is among those groups now lobbying some New York State lawmakers to pass a ban on all competitive hunting events.
"What we really want also as a part of this is to ban these kinds of killing contests in New York State,” said Birnkrant. “They are banned in Colorado, a New Mexico state rep recently introduced a bill to ban to ban killing contests in his state because there was an awful coyote killing contest, these kinds of things need to be phased out.”
"I would support a state level and certainly a federal level ban on competitive hunting as well as other policies regarding animals,” Joel Helfrich of Rochester said. "I think quite honestly there are a lot of hunters that disagree with competitive hunting I think that quite honestly there's a lot of firemen that disagree with this policy.”
Yet speak to many who call the Village of Holley or the surrounding area home and you get quite a different viewpoint on this event.
"It's a way of life around here, some people don't realize the squirrels do, do some damage,” Ed Merritt of Holley said.
"The squirrels are a nuisance they do more damage than…they are fuzzy tailed rodents,” Alfred Pulcino of Holley said.
Some are also not welcoming to the protesters who arrived in town on Friday from the New York City area.
"People around here they do kill these animals but they eat them, they use their pelts, they're not going to waste and as far as these people? They can go back home where they come from,” said Urb Bennett of Kendall. “We don't go to their community and protest. All we want to do is come out here and be left alone.”
"Not everyone likes everything that goes on in the world and you're entitled to your opinions,” Jody Forrest of Holley stated. “It is what it is, that's why we are what we are everyone has their opinion.”