Maine wildlife officials deny Harpswell woman’s appeal to reunite with flightless blue jay, neutered squirrel

Georgette Curran of Cundy's Harbor in Harpswell feeds and talks to her pet koi in the basement of her house in this June 2012 file photo.
Georgette Curran of Cundy's Harbor in Harpswell feeds and talks to her pet koi in the basement of her house in this June 2012 file photo. Buy Photo
Posted June 30, 2014, at 2:35 p.m.

HARPSWELL, Maine — An appeal by a 67-year-old Harpswell woman hoping to convince Maine wildlife officials to return the pet gray squirrel and blue jay seized in March has been denied, and the 47 koi fish she kept as pets — which the state deemed illegal — have been euthanized.

Georgette Curran fought with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for two years to keep the koi, a subspecies of carp, which Maine law classifies as an invasive species.

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

On March 24, a team of 10 game wardens, biologists and animal welfare agents seized 47 live koi and five dead koi, as well as a flightless blue jay Curran had named Jayne and a neutered gray squirrel she called Tommy, from her home. The two animals were being kept in violation of a law prohibiting possession of captive wildlife.

The koi were euthanized in April, Mark Latti, a spokesman for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said Thursday.

The squirrel and blue jay remained at a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility, where they are being cared for according to state regulations for injured wildlife, Latti said. The rehabilitators, who are funded by donation, 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,” so neither will be released, Latti said in April.

Curran appealed the court ruling, and on April 29, she appeared at an administrative hearing before the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife review board in Augusta.

In a decision issued June 11, Deputy Commissioner Andrea Erskine denied Curran’s application to keep the squirrel as “a legitimate therapy or aid for disabilities for both the squirrel and [Ms. Curran].”

Erskine said that a letter submitted by Curran’s doctor did not demonstrate that she suffers from any disability as defined by the Maine Human Rights Act. Furthermore, to keep the squirrel to provide therapy or aid to the squirrel would require a wildlife rehabilitation permit, which Curran did not apply for.

According to the report, “Ms. Curran stated that obtaining a license to rehabilitate was too much work, and there were too many regulations.”

Erskine said that Curran “subjected the squirrel to unauthorized veterinary surgical procedures while it was unlawfully in her possession, including the administration of anaesthesia and the performance of an operation to sterilize it.”

Latti said in April that Curran admitted to investigators that she clipped the wings of the blue jay and neutered the squirrel herself.

“Ms Curran’s testimony during the hearing demonstrated that she did not recognize the impropriety of such actions and the need to seek out appropriate veterinary care for the squirrel,” the panel’s decision continued.

The state concluded that even if Curran was allowed to keep the squirrel, she would be unlikely to comply with “reasonable conditions imposed to [ensure] that the animal would receive humane treatment and proper husbandry and security.”

According to the decision, Curran withdrew an application to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep the blue jay.

Curran did not respond to multiple requests to comment.

 

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