Even before the Department of Natural Resources entered the case, the Commerce squirrel slaying statute was loaded with uncertainties.
The biggest is, can I get a variance?
The city routinely grants variances in its zoning ordinance. If the law says you can’t build within 15 feet of the property line and you want to build closer, no problem. The city council doesn’t care, as long as it’s not next to their property. I figure it will treat its animal pest ordinance similarly.
Say I didn’t have a problem with squirrels, but a pileated woodpecker is destroying the fascia board. Shouldn’t I be able to get a variance?
Squirrels may be pests in some areas of town, but in others the pest may be a cat who thinks your rose bed is the port-a-john, a hawk that is eying your kitten, or a next-door neighbor whose immaculate yard makes the rest of the neighborhood look bad.
Those pests do more damage than squirrels. Having made it legal to shoot some pests, the door is open for expansion via variance. A pest, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.
The council would have to allow variances. It has already set the precedent by allowing people to violate its zoning and sign laws upon request. It’s hard for me to believe that a city council that caves in on every zoning variance request would turn down a citizen tearfully asking for a variance to shoot puppies who trample his daffodils.
There are other issues to consider:
•Does shooting a squirrel off your bird feeder constitute shooting over bait? That’s probably in the province of the DNR.
•Is it against the law to entice a squirrel onto your property so you can dispatch it?
•Mourning doves are the pests on my bird feeder. Can I shoot them? If so, do I have to wait until dove season and do I have to get a permit from the U.S. Fish & Game Service and a Georgia hunting license? Can I eat them if the economy gets worse?
•Where is the line between ridding the neighborhood of pesky squirrels and squirrel hunting, which requires a hunting license and is restricted by a hunting season?
•Can I control this pest year-round or just Aug. 15-Feb. 28? Or does it depend upon whether I eat the resulting carrion?
•Can I shoot more pest squirrels in a day than the DNR’s daily bag limit of squirrels?
Has anyone been prosecuted in the last decade for shooting squirrels in the city before it was authorized by the new ordinance?
OK, we know the answer to that one. For all practical purposes, it has been wink-wink-illegal to shoot squirrels in the city, like it’s wink-wink-illegal to skateboard in the downtown.
At least we semi-cleared that up.
Mark Beardsley is the editor of The Commerce News. He lives in Commerce.
That's funny, no matter who you are! Hey, I do have a suggestion to rid yourself of the cat problem. Get the hawk from the other complainant, move it to your yard and let nature take its course. Killing two...er...CATS with one stone!
(AMEN on the skateboard thing, too. Think we can shoot them...or at least clotheline 'em as they whiz by???)
I feed the squirrels in may yard, sometimes 10 or 15 come eat. And I don't have a problem with them distroying anything. Maybe a tree trimming about their houses would solve most of the problems.
The PETA thing was a joke
04/10/09 at 08:48 PM
I wonder if the city council or police chief will take the blame as soon as someone open fires on a squirrel and hits an innocent 3 year old child.
Oh, could I get a variance for shooting my neighbors dog that barks everynight at 3am. That would be sweet...
What a stupid law....
former Commerce resident
04/20/09 at 09:59 PM
Why would anyone allow their 'innocent 3 year old' to be in a tree??? Get real!!
I used to keep the squirrel population under control in my neighborhood when I was growing up in Commerce. Didn't hit any 3 year olds that I can remember.