I’m a little irritated at the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife right now. I just checked my e-mail. I got one from Care2, which is a site where people can sign online petitions. Anyway, the email I received was about a woman named Maria. Last July, her neighbor showed her an injured squirrel. Because Maria is an animal lover, she took the squirrel in. Apparently it was pregnant, and the squirrel mom took off after giving birth. Maria called NJDFW (New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife) for assistance, because in New Jersey you need a permit, and she didn’t know what to do. The person that she spoke to told her to continue to care for the babies, and they would check on her in the Spring.
Four months later, NJDFW showed up at her doorstep. They inquired about the babies. She had fed them, and took care of them. Her reward? She got a ticket in the mail because she broke the law! She went to court to fight it, and was told by the Judge that she could face up to six months of Prison time, as well as fines as high as $1,000.00. According to the petition Maria is due back in court on the 27th, which is tomorrow.
I have so many issues with this story. First of all, she could’ve not called and kept the squirrels. No one would be the wiser. Because she is an honest human being who cares, she went the extra mile and then some. Now she’s facing the consequences because she broke New Jersey law, or did she? What I don’t understand is why she’s not suing the State of New Jersey. No, I am not a lawyer! Before you roll your eyes, hear me out.
I went to the NJDFW website, and I actually downloaded The State of New Jersey Captive Game Animal and Game Bird Regulations. In section 7:25-10.6, it lists the Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) as being a “wildlife animal” that you need a permit to have. Got it. However, further down in section 7:25-10.7 it lists the categories of permits issued for such animals. Section (a) 8 lists the permit category called “Cooperator”. The definition as listed by its own rules, states in part “based on the need as determined by the Division to rear orphaned juvenile wildlife species and rehabilitate injured wildlife species listed under 7:25-10.6(a) and (b).”
Well, didn’t the Division grant her the title of Cooperator when it told her to continue to care for the babies? After all, they were orphaned juvenile squirrels as defined by the law. Why didn’t they send her the permit? It’s free. She held up her end of the bargain. She didn’t break the contract.
But wait! There’s more! According to the next section of that document, there is an actual allowance called “Emergency Possession.” As long as the animal is not dangerous, and a phone call is made to the wildlife division informing them of such action; it is perfectly legal to possess the animal. In fact, according to 7:25-10.9 (a) 2 once emergency possession occurs, the Division is supposed to prescribe the best course of action that is in the best interest of the animal. Did it not do that by telling her to take care of them? Since it was in my humble opinion, an “Emergency Possession” there was no law to break.
I am not a fan of frivolous lawsuits, not in the least. If it were me, I’d sue for Court costs and my time off work. I do think however that NJDFW deserves a lesson here, and that lesson would be before you go around trying to enforce your rules, you might want to learn them first!
Incidentally, the regs that I quoted can be found here:
And the Website is here: