Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Skunks, foxes, and raccoons, oh my!

By Sarah McMullen

PLATTSBURGH N.Y.- Seven Plattsburgh City council members gathered around a mahogany table on November 12, 2015, at 5:30 in the evening. The members began rapidly tabling, approving and denying possible events, projects and laws. There was little hesitation when many topics arose. However about half way through the meeting there seemed to be a disagreement about a pending law.

            The law pending law being discussed was in regards to wild animals being a nuisance is the surrounding community. The law states, “ Harboring, Keeping or Feeding pigeons, and Other Animals Unlawful “No person, firm corporation, or association shall intentionally feed, harbor, or keep any pigeons and other wild animals, including but not limited to raccoons, deer, skunk, opossums, coyotes, birds, squirrels or fox within the City of Plattsburgh, New York. This section does not apply to bird feeders.”
            City council member, Mike Kelly stood his ground when the subject of the pending law came up. Kelly was unsettled by the wording of the nuisance declared. “The unnatural present of pigeons, and other wild animals, including but not limited to raccoons, deer, skunk, opossums, coyotes, birds, squirrels or fox, in the City of Plattsburgh, New York is hereby declared to be a public nuisance, the same being a menace to the health of the community.”
            Kelly felt that skunks and a few of the animals listed should not to be known the community as a nuisance. Kelly said, “ I even find skunks to be enjoyable from a distance.”  Kelly persisted that the wording of the nuisance declaration be changed so that it is more respectful to the animals and so that the law would not be taken out of context by residents.

            Kelly’s remarks were quickly countered by city council member Dale Dowdle. Dowdle agreed with the nuisance declared. Dowdle brought up a few instances when community members had found the animals stated in the law a nuisance. Dowdle said, “Someone thought a fox killed their dogs. There was evidence because of the paw prints in the snow.” Dowdle also went on to say that there had been times when skunks have gotten in people’s houses and that created havoc.

            However, veterinarian, Sarah Cutler, voiced the importance of watching your animals when they are outside. Throughout Cutlers years of practice she has seen the worst animal attacks on both dogs and cats. Cutler said, “Though it is your property it is still nature and wild animals don’t know a property line. They could possibly see your animal as a threat and that is why many domestic animals are attacked.” Cutler stressed that feeding wild animals can also contribute to the level of comfort and dominance that wild animals have around your property.
            A Resident of the local area, Katie Laporte, who also attended the council meeting that night was in agreement with Dowdle’s remarks. A few nights earlier prior to the meeting Laporte was walking to her apartment’s parking lot when she noticed a fluffy black and white animal hopping between the parked cars. Laporte’s car was parked on the other side of the lot so she had to walk in the complete opposite direction to reach her car. Laporte was also in a rush and found that the skunk’s presence was frustrating. Laporte said, “It was so annoying. I had to walk around my entire house to get to my car because I was afraid I was going to get sprayed.”
LaPorte isn’t the only resident having problems with animals being where they shouldn’t.
            Nicole Hoffman, a local to the area explained her experience with a squirrel  coming into her house while she was unloading groceries one day. Hoffman said, “One day I was taking the groceries out of my car when a squirrel ran inside my house while my front door was open. It took me about an hour to finally get it out of my house.” Hoffman was completely agitated because of the amount of germs that a squirrel has and how she had to clean her house because she didn’t want to take any chances getting sick.

            The adoption of this law was passed with a 3 to 2 vote. There is now a strain on the residents’ interaction with the wildlife. This law stresses to let the wildlife be, so that the residents will no longer be bothered. Locals hope that these animals will return to seclusion so that resident’s everyday activities can continue to be uninterrupted by such nuisances.


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