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The squirrel watch was cute, but now it's war

Page 3 of 3 -- "The legalities are that you may protect your property from damage and you are legally allowed to trap the squirrels with box traps," said Larson. "You can't use poison and you can't use leg-hold or body-ripping traps. But once you have the animal, what do you do? There are only two options: releasing the animal back on your own property or killing it. You cannot legally transport animals to other properties and release them because it has the possibility of spreading disease. And it just spreads the problem."

"Some people say, `I don't want to deal with trapping and killing them. Let me hire someone else to do it for a fee,"' Larson said. "Our agency licenses problem-animal control agents. They have to take an exam and a couple of classes." (The website mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/dfw_pac.htm contains contact information on licensed animal-control agents and information for property owners about their options and the law.)

If you're a sportsman, you might be interested to known that the squirrel-hunting season for Worcester County and Western Massachusetts opened Sept. 13. It begins Oct. 16 in the eastern part of the state. Both hunting seasons end Jan. 1. Squirrel hunting is popular in some parts of the country, as is squirrel cuisine. Young squirrels are reportedly tasty when fried while older ones are better stewed.

The other option, of course, is that you just coexist with these animals. "Some people say that's not that bad a deal. It's a question of the tolerance level," said Larson. "The mere presence of a squirrel does not make it legal to trap and destroy them. You need good evidence that the squirrel has destroyed property."

That evidence is easy to find. Beth Benjamin has seen chipmunks sitting on the patio tomato cages eating her tomatoes, and one woman called Larson while watching a squirrel pulling plants out of her pots, taking one nibble from each and then digging up the next one. "But the most bizarre call we got this year was from a Shakespeare production on the Boston Common this summer," said Larson. "Squirrels were chewing through the wiring and falling off the scaffolding onto the stage or audience during the performance. I didn't have a solution." 

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