ST. MARYS — Live trapping of squirrels in the city of St. Marys will soon begin with one caveat — the furry critters must be released and cannot be killed.
St. Marys Safety-Service Director Tom Hitchcock said residents may trap squirrels but they cannot kill the animals. Any squirrel that is caught must be released alive.
“You cannot kill them because they’re not approved on the list of animals you can trap and kill,” Hitchcock told members of the St. Marys Electric Committee Monday night. “It’s like the only one that they (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) forgot to put on the list. I think it was an oversight from ODNR and they are planning on having a meeting in March to try and rectify it.”
Residents can live trap them but cannot kill them, meaning the animals do not fall under hunting guidelines. Hitchcock said because the animals have been declared a nuisance — squirrels are being blamed for causing most of the short power outages across the city — residents can trap the animals and bring them to the city for proper disposal.
“People can trap them all year round and bring them to us and then we can either take them and release them out on a site outside of town or dispose of them because we had to get a certified, licensed nuisance trapper and one of our police officers got that through ODNR last week,” Hitchcock said. “And if someone brings us a squirrel and we dispose of it, we have to dispose of the animal — they do not get the carcass.”
Hitchcock said residents can trap squirrels and release them on property that has been approved by its owner or they can take the animals to the police department. The city has three locations that personnel can take the squirrels for release.
“We’ve had two landowners call in and say they would like squirrels released on their property and they are both outside of town,” Hitchcock said. “And then we always have the landfill to release them. Obviously if an animal is sickly looking, we’d probably remove that one.”
Hitchcock said legislation is not necessary because the squirrels have been deemed a nuisance and it does not fall under hunting and trapping regulations.
The process is similar to how the city handles cat complaints.
“It’s going to be more about residents wanting to help the city try to reduce the power outages than it will be about hunting them,” Hitchcock said.
If a resident trapped a fox or a raccoon, Hitchcock said that person could kill it under current laws.
“It’s like the only fur-bearing animal that has a hunting season that’s not on the list,” Hitchcock said of squirrels. “They aren’t sure why. They are going to visit that in March because that’s when their rules board is.”
Hitchcock encouraged residents to bring squirrels to the police department if they are unsure of where to release the animals.
He also said residents should put their names on traps so the devices can be returned after a squirrel is released.
“If you are going to trap an animal, you should have your name on our traps, you should only trap on your property and you shouldn’t trap on other people’s property,” Hitchcock said. “What we are going to do is probably take their trap and return it to them. I can’t image we are going to transfer them to another cage.”
Hitchcock said ODNR officials told him no legislation was necessary to deem squirrels a nuisance in the city.
The next meeting of the St. Marys City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at the city building located along East Spring Street. The meeting is open to the public.