State to hear Harpswell woman’s appeal to keep neutered squirrel, flightless blue jay

Posted April 28, 2014, at 5:36 p.m.
Georgette Curran of Cundy's Harbor in Harpswell is fighting to keep her school of koi, which the state has told her are illegal.
Georgette Curran of Cundy's Harbor in Harpswell is fighting to keep her school of koi, which the state has told her are illegal. Buy Photo

HARPSWELL, Maine — The fate of a crippled blue jay and neutered gray squirrel could hang in the balance as a 66-year-old Cundy’s Harbor woman appears before Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife officials Tuesday to argue that she should be allowed to keep the two animals.

In March, a team of 10 game wardens, biologists and animal welfare agents seized 47 live and five dead koi, as well as the flightless blue jay and neutered gray squirrel, from Georgette Curran’s home.

Curran said Monday via social media that she fears for the lives of Tommy, the gray squirrel, and Jayne, the blue jay, who since March have been with licensed state wildlife rehabilitators.

“I am really stressing about the safety of our Tommy and Jayne … and I would hate to see that anything I would say would jeopardize their welfare and safe return to their forever home,” Curran wrote in a Facebook message to the Bangor Daily News.

She declined to speak further about Tuesday’s hearing at DIF&W offices in Augusta, and referred questions to her attorney, Kristina Kurlanski. Kurlanski did not return a phone call Monday.

Mark Latti, spokesman for DIF&W, said Monday that Curran admitted to investigators that she clipped the wings of the blue jay and neutered the squirrel herself.

Maine Drug Enforcement agents subsequently reported seizing 12 different types of veterinary drugs, from steroids to ketamine, and anaesthetic used for surgery from Curran’s house and charged her with illegal possession of drugs.

Curran said at the time that she previously held a license to operate an animal shelter but that she didn’t renew her license. She said she previously used the drugs to euthanize dogs and cats brought to the shelter, but hadn’t done so for years.

The drug charges since have been dropped, according to Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Michael Madigan.

Curran, who kept the koi in a 900-gallon tank in her basement during the winter and a 6,000-gallon backyard pond in the summer, had argued since the spring of 2012 that the state’s classification of koi as an invasive species should not apply to her fish.

According to the state, koi — a subspecies of carp — and other invasive fish have the potential to take over Maine waterways and eliminate native fish species if released into a pond, lake or river.

In February, the Maine Judicial Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling that effectively allowed state wildlife officials to seize Curran’s koi.

Curran was charged with importing freshwater fish or eggs without a permit, and is scheduled to appear in West Bath District Court in June.

But Curran’s concern now is for Jayne, the blue jay, and Tommy, her squirrel.

Curran had applied to keep the animals as therapy animals, but in a March 12 letter, DIF&W wrote that the two species do not qualify as therapy animals. Also according to the letter, Curran had not demonstrated a legitimate need for the animals and they were not trained for that purpose.

State officials also said Curran did not have “appropriate facilities” for the animals and that possession of the species “potentially and unreasonably threatens a wildlife population or the public welfare.” According to the letter, orphaned or debilitated animals can only be taken and treated by licensed wildlife rehabilitators, which Curran is not.

Latti said Monday that the squirrel and blue jay are with licensed wildlife rehabilitators, who are funded by donation. The rehabilitators typically take injured or orphaned animals and rehabilitate them so they can be released back into the wild.

“But in this case, the blue jay is crippled and can’t fly, and the squirrel was neutered and has no fear of humans,” and so won’t be released, Latti said.

Asked what will happen to the animals, Latti said he couldn’t comment on what decision would be made after the hearing, but said, “The plan right now is to keep them at the rehabilitator … there are no plans to change that.”

Andrea Erskine, DIF&W deputy commissioner; Judy Camuso, head of the department’s Wildlife Division; and Maj. Chris Cloutier of the Maine Warden Service will preside over the hearing, according to Latti. They have 30 days to issue a decision.

 

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