Squirrel Slam opponent vows to keep up fight

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 February 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Richard Brummel, an environmental activist from Long Island, said he will continue to fight the Holley Fire Department on its squirrel hunting contest, which he compared to a “slaughter.”

ALBION – Richard Brummel had a tough morning in court in front of Orleans County Court Judge James Punch.

Brummel was told he didn’t file paperwork properly, and may have committed a crime by not having the proper power of attorney documents to represent Lauren Sheive of Williamson in Wayne County.

Brummel, in environmental activist from Long Island, had to be told to step back from the table normally reserved for the attorneys or defendant.

Judge James Punch said he didn’t believe Brummel intended the paperwork mistakes and judge said he wouldn’t sanction Brummel. But Punch said Brummel would not be allowed to appear on Sheive’s behalf in court.

The judge, however, ruled on the arguments presented in a court filing on Tuesday that sought to stop the Squirrel Slam hunting contest scheduled for Feb. 28. The judge determined the event doesn’t break any environmental laws and can go on as scheduled. The judge dismissed the case.

Many reporters from Rochester and Buffalo were in the courtroom for the proceedings. The Squirrel Slam has national and international attention from animal rights’ activists.

A squirrel walks on wires up high in this photo take last fall in Albion.

Brummel said he was able to raise enough money, with another $1,500 donation on Wednesday, to hire an attorney and pursue the case again.

“We hope this case will be properly back on the court’s calendar,” Brummel said.

He strongly disagreed with the judge’s decision today.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of judges and these judges do not apply the law,” Brummel told reporters after the court proceedings. “They apply their own opinion and that’s what happened today.”

Brummel believes there is an environmental impact with the hunt because so many squirrels are wiped out.

The Holley event is capped at 600 tickets or 300 two-person teams, said Fran Gaylord, president of the Holley Fire Company. The hunting season for gray, black and fox squirrel runs from Sept. 1 to Feb. 28 and there is a daily bag limit of 6. Red squirrels may be hunted anytime and there is no limit, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Brummel said the Holley hunt happens at a time when many squirrels are pregnant. He said thousands of squirrels are eliminated with the Squirrel Slam. That kind of environmental impact should be addressed by the Fire Department.

“It’s really important that these issues be fought,” Brummel told reporters. “I couldn’t turn my back on what I thought was an attack on these lovely animals.”

Brummel drove 700 miles round trip to file the legal challenge to the case, only to have it dismissed in its entirety by the judge.

“It was worth it for the chance that we might win,” Brummel said. “It’s always worth fighting for the environment.”

Brummel said Orleans County residents are fortunate to live in an area with open spaces and lots of wildlife. He said Long Island is congested with lots of traffic and not much wildlife.

He didn’t like how Judge Punch compared the squirrel-hunting contest to a fishing derby.

“We have a huge problem with overfishing,” he said. “This isn’t frivolous. We are acting as if we have unlimited resources, whether it’s squirrels, fish, trees or whales.”

Fran Gaylord is interviewed by reporters inside the Orleans County Courthouse.

Gaylord, president of the fire company, said none of the hunters are breaking any laws. Although 600 tickets are sold, Gaylord said only about 120 to 140 of the two-person teams compete. Many people buy tickets to support the fire department and don’t hunt, he said.

The fire department used to only sell about 200 tickets for the fund-raiser, but it could easily sell 1,000 due to the publicity around the Squirrel Slam. The event is capped at 600 because that is how many people can fit in the fire hall for refreshments when the hunt is over.

“We haven’t paid one dime for advertising in three years because you guys do it for us,” Gaylord told reporters.

Gaylord said the opponents of the hunting contest tend to be downstate residents.

“This is a way of life up here,” he said about the contest. “It’s really no different than a fishing derby. You need a license and it has to get weighed.”