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Got squirrels in the attic, raccoons, skunks or opossums under the porch?

For almost 10 years in Niagara County, people having to deal with these annoying critters have called Sherwood "Red" Crow, a temporarily retired Department of Environmental Conservation nuisance wildlife control license holder.

Ill health has sidelined him from actively working traps for the past three years, but he has a fund of trapping experience and information, and he looks forward to getting back in the field -- mainly in and under dwellings -- soon.

Known to all simply as "Red," Crow has spent more than 50 years in trapping, "but it was always as a spare-time hobby," he stresses. He spent his youth in Moundsville, W.Va., along the shores of the Ohio River, where he could find all kinds of trappable animals.

When he moved to Western New York, he found good trapping possibilities and developed a reputation as an effective trapper of pests as well as salable furbearers. As a private citizen, by law, he could not remove these pests unless he had a state-issued nuisance-trapping license.

A nuisance trapper can trap and relocate troublesome animals. Private citizens cannot transfer wildlife from one location to another. Crow obtained his license and handled complaints for nearly 10 years, using live traps wherever possible. "After I caught an animal I would release it in some open area suitable to their habitat -- unless the animal is ill," he said.

In general, he would use Connibear traps, a neck-hold trap, in close quarters or box traps where they would fit.

"I try for live captures as much as possible," he noted, "but sometimes the animals would be in a place where they could not be caught live."

In open areas, trapping cuts down on predators (raccoon, fox, skunk) that destroy eggs of pheasants, ruffed grouse and wild turkey. Also, coyotes, fox and raccoons can decimate populations of adult game birds, especially during spring nesting time. "You would be surprised to see how many wild turkeys raccoons can consume," he remarked.

While nuisance trapping, Crow keeps a log of every animal trapped and moved, its release status, number of traps and the location served. He submits these reports to the DEC yearly.

"When I'm actively trapping I'll keep about 20 traps for complaint calls, rarely using leg-hold traps. But before modern traps came along, that's all we had for trapping 20-40 years ago."

Crow tries to discreetly explain that excess numbers of nuisance animals entering humans' dwellings are the result of less trapping and an overabundance of wild animals, some of which become infected. He points out that the rabies scare dominant a few years ago has subsided, but people should always be cautious around free-ranging wildlife.

These nuisance trappers mainly handle situations with wildlife indigenous to the area, but complaint reports have also included successful trapping of feral pigs, exotic snakes and other non-typical creatures that take up residence in mankind's dwellings.

Nuisance trapping involves many skilled people to handle complaints, which come into DEC headquarters daily. "DEC's Buffalo office averages 10 to 30 calls daily," said John Curtiss, program coordinator, "with the peak in complaints coming each spring." He refers each call to one of 60 active trappers in Erie County; he estimates about 200 trappers respond throughout Region 9.

To become a nuisance trapper, a person must first have a New York State trapper training certificate or valid New York State trapping license. Interested trappers can apply for a nuisance permit through the DEC Albany office.

For more information about nuisance trapping in Western New York, check with Region 9 headquarters in Buffalo (851-7000) or Allegany (372-0645). In Region 8 call 226-5380 or the Bath office at (607) 776-2165.

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