Committee Backs Trapping

ST. MARYS — City councilors next week should get their first look at an ordinance that would allow the live trapping of squirrels in an effort to curb power outages across St. Marys.

Members of the St. Marys Electric Committee voiced no objection to the proposal to introduce legislation that would authorize the live trapping of squirrels within the city limits during squirrel season. Safety-Service Director Tom Hitchcock said the legislation is an attempt to quell squirrel-related outages — events that have surged in recent months.

“Squirrels have been an issue for us for a long time when it comes to power outages,” Hitchcock said. “Even this year so far, we have had 34 outages that are an average of 24 minutes — these are the longer ones that may only affect a certain area of town. Fifteen of those 34 were caused by squirrels. We’ve had 16 events that are five to 10 seconds, 15 of those 16 were caused by squirrels.”

To address the topic, Hitchcock said crews placed squirrel guards on power poles. However, the furry animals often trip lines by running from homes to power poles and into high-voltage lines.

“With us being a Tree City, USA, we have a lot of trees,” Hitchcock said. “They hop on the lines coming from private services, they run down the lines and get fried somewhere.”

Hitchcock said only live trapping would be permitted under the legislation.

He spoke with wildlife officials and they told him it would be legal to allow trapping during squirrel season — which runs Sept. 1 to Jan. 31 with a daily bag limit of six.

“There are rules they would have to follow through the Division of Wildlife,” Hitchcock said.

“If we allow this, they have to follow all the guidelines of hunting. All we are going to allow them to do is trap inside the city limits.”

Currently no hunting or trapping is allowed within the city limits. Hitchcock also offered the idea of allowing trapping on city property. Committee members agreed that if that were to happen, a lottery could determine who gets permission to trap on city property.

“Since they are live traps and they aren’t going to hurt anybody, I’m OK with allowing limited trapping within the city parks,” Hitchcock said.

“I don’t really want to get involved with our guys trapping these.”

Hitchcock said he planned to talk with City Law Director Kraig Noble on fine-tuning the language before Monday’s city council meeting. The language could include emergency language but is expected to be read three times.

“If we don’t bring emergency it puts us in effect Nov. 1,” Hitchcock said. “If we put in emergency it puts us in effect Oct. 1.”

The next meeting of the St. Marys City Council is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 22 at the city building located along East Spring Street.